Teacher Turnover and Child Development in Head Start
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
We use the 2006 and 2009 waves of the nationally-representative Head Start Family and Child Experiences Survey (FACES, N≈4,000 children, N≈850 teachers, N≈240 centers). We begin by examining the relationship between within-year teacher exits—that is, teachers who leave during the Head Start program year—and an extensive set of center-level factors such as compensation and benefits, director characteristics, opportunities for professional development, and teacher and director measures of center climate. We find that 10% of children in Head Start have a teacher that leaves Head Start entirely during the program year. This within-year turnover is systematically related to center climate and leadership. For example, after accounting for an extensive set of teacher characteristics, we found that turnover was strongly predicted by aggregated teacher reports of center support; that is, their sense that Head Start provided assistance in the classroom, appropriate help for new teachers, and support for teamwork. Turnover was also associated with inexperienced directors.
The key goal of our analysis was to examine the relationship between teacher turnover and child outcomes. To do this, we use a fixed-effects analysis to measure the effects of turnover on children’s development across a broad set of outcomes including measures of mathematics, literacy, and behavioral regulation. Our results suggest that within-year teacher turnover is deleterious for children’s development, particularly for mathematics and behavioral outcomes. Effect sizes were modest. For example, within-centers, teacher turnover was associated with a -0.14 of a standard deviation reduction in children’s growth in mathematics.
Our findings provide the first empirical evidence on within-year ECE teacher turnover, using large, nationally-representative data. The results are consistent with recent claims that within-year turnover has negative impacts on children’s development, and suggest that policies aimed at improving center supports for teachers may offer an important avenue for reducing turnover.