Mandy Longworth prepares her 6th-grade science class at Harlan High School (Harlan Independent) for a dissection during an upcoming field trip at Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies. Longworth has been getting used to using CIITS. Photo by Amy Wallot, March 27, 2014

A recent study investigating whether Appalachian schools have a harder time retaining teachers than other schools in the Commonwealth has shown that the vast majority of teachers between 2008 and 2012 stayed in the same schools. In 2014, Mary Longworth, above, prepared her 6th-grade science class at Harlan High School (Harlan Independent) for a dissection.
Photo by Amy Wallot, March 27, 2014

By Jennifer Ginn

A new study showed that the teaching population in Kentucky’s schools stayed relatively stable between 2008 and 2012, which is good news for students.

The study – “Teacher retention, mobility and attrition in Kentucky public schools from 2008 to 2012” ­– used data from the Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics on every teacher employed in the public school system, pre-K through 12th grade. It was conducted by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Appalachia, which is one of 10 federal Regional Educational Laboratories using data and analysis to answer questions of policy and practice to help states improve education

The study found that during the four-year period, almost 86 percent of teachers stayed in the same school from one year to the next, 6 percent changed schools and slightly more than 8 percent left the public school system.

“This is encouraging news,” Kentucky Education Commissioner Stephen Pruitt said. “From urban schools to rural ones, from Appalachian schools to those in Western Kentucky, the vast majority of the Commonwealth’s children are benefiting from a stable, experienced teacher workforce. All of Kentucky’s students benefit when schools can retain teachers who know the school system, know their students’ families and have learned how to work well with each other to maximize academic progress.”

The rates of teacher retention were different, the study found, depending upon the characteristics of the teacher and the school they served. Younger teachers less than 31 years old and teachers older than 50 left the Kentucky public school system at a higher rate (13 percent and 9.1 percent, respectively) than teachers ranging from ages 32 to 49 (5 to 6.7 percent).

Teachers who taught in public schools that had a larger percentage of students eligible for free and reduced-price meals changed schools at a higher rate (7.9 percent) than those teaching in schools with a lower percentage of eligible students (4.8 to 5.6 percent). However, teachers left the public school system at a similar rate regardless of the characteristics of the school.

Conducted by researchers at Indiana University, the study was designed to investigate whether Appalachian schools had a harder time retaining teachers than other parts of the Commonwealth. National studies have shown that a higher teacher turnover rate hurts the academic progress of students, particularly in reading and math.

To read the report, click here.