New research looking at data from the National Center for Education Statistics 2003-04 Schools and Staffing Survey and the Teacher Follow-Up Survey confirms our murmurings, that charter school teachers don't stick around for long.
Charter school teachers are twice more likely to leave the profession than teachers in traditional schools, and even those that do remain teaching still like to change schools with some frequency. Worse, teachers at start-up charters are twice as likely to leave the profession and three times as likely to switch schools as their peers at charter conversion schools.
Also, confirming what we all suspected, demographics explain a lot of this churning. These teachers are generally younger, less likely to have an education degree or state certification. Should we care? We think so. Usually, high staff attrition rates correlate with poor school performance. But the high turnover may speak more to the high rates of teachers leaving charters who aren't doing so of their own free will, i.e., they were fired, rather than voluntary changes. It's easier to dismiss poor-performing teachers in charters, where administrators generally don't have to contend with unions.
However, charter schools do not have access to an inexhaustible source of effective, qualified teachers, which would be needed to sustain this current rate of attrition. At some point, charter schools will have to learn to retain teachers in spite of the demographic challenges of their faculty.