This case study of a science reform program in the middle grades highlights how the instructional payoff from investments in intensive professional development in science was diminished by 1) teachers leaving the school and 2) assignment of teachers to subjects other than those for which they had received the professional development.
The literature on teacher turnover has traditionally focused on teachers whose destinations are external to the school (be it another school, district or state, or profession). In this article I examine internal turnover that takes place among teachers who remain at their school but change their subject assignments. I analyze the levels, causes, and impacts on school reform of internal turnover within the science faculties at three urban middle schools during 4 years of a whole-school reform program. Major findings include the following: (a) Internal turnover levels are high, higher than external turnover; (b) subject assignments made without regard to both teachers’ subject interests and stability of assignments appear to be the primary causes of internal turnover; (c) district policies allowing elementary-certified teachers to teach any subject foster internal turnover; and (d) internal turnover has serious detrimental impacts on school reform. I identify district and school-level policy options to reduce the level of internal turnover to support reform.
Download the full report, “Teacher Turnover in Urban Middle Schools”. Ruby, A. (2002). Internal teacher turnover in urban middle school reform. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 7(4): 379-406. Available online here from the original publisher.