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Exploring Turnover and Retention Patterns Among Tennessee's Teachers of Color 


This brief explores turnover patterns among teachers of color in Tennessee. Findings show that there are significant turnover differences between Black and White teachers, but these differences can be explained in part by high rates of teacher transfer, school contextual factors, and feelings of racial isolation among teachers of color. This brief is the first in a series of TERA studies examining teacher diversity in Tennessee schools. 

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Teacher improvement  

Our Findings:

  1. Black teachers, particularly black male teachers, are more likely to leave their schools than White teachers. However, they generally move to different schools within the same district rather than leave the profession altogether.  
  2. Turnover is higher among Black teachers in part because they are more likely to work in schools where turnover is higher among all teachers, including schools with more concentrated student poverty and lower average student achievement. 

  3. Turnover among Black teachers is especially high when they are racially isolated. Black teachers turn over at higher rates when they have few Black teachers as colleagues. 

  4. Black principals retain Black teachers at higher rates. 


This analysis uses Tennessee data from the 2011-2012 to 2015-2016 school years. The information includes personal and professional characteristics as well as school and district characteristics. Teacher turnover is identified by comparing teachers' work information in that year to his or her work information in the following year. Teachers who do not return are labeled as turning over. Using a statistical technique called regression analysis, researchers predict the likelihood that a teacher will leave his or her school. This allows for a comparison of otherwise-similar Black and White teachers. 


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