The Irreplaceables: Understanding the Real Retention Crisis in Urban Schools

August 23, 2012

The Irreplaceables documents the real teacher retention crisis in America’s schools: not only a failure to retain enough teachers, but a failure to retain the right teachers.

Spanning four urban school districts encompassing 90,000 teachers, 2,100 schools and 1.4 million students, the study focuses on the experiences of the “Irreplaceables”: teachers so successful at advancing student learning that they are nearly impossible to replace. It finds that schools rarely make a strong effort to keep these teachers despite their success—and rarely usher unsuccessful teachers out.

As a result, the best and worst teachers leave urban schools at strikingly similar rates. The nation’s 50 largest districts lose approximately 10,000 Irreplaceables each year. Meanwhile, about 40 percent of teachers with more than seven years of experience are less effective at advancing academic progress than the average first-year teacher. 

These retention patterns stymie school turnaround efforts and prevent the teaching profession from earning the prestige it deserves. The report offers two major recommendations:

1. Make retention of Irreplaceables a top priority

2. Strengthen the teaching profession with higher expectations

Our teachers deserve a profession that offers respect and rigor. Leaders at every level helped create the retention crisis. We all have an opportunity—and a responsibility—to help solve it.

Click the link below to read and share the report, and watch the video below of the release event of the report featuring Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.