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Employment Statistics 101

Should we be surprised by high teacher turnover?

Another school year, another problem reported for Chicago Public Schools—this time, it’s seemingly off-the-charts turnover rates for teachers. According to a study released in June by the University of Chicago, more than half of CPS teachers leave within five years of being hired. But is high turnover in an infamously low-paying and sometimes thankless field really all that strange?

Statistics from other industries suggest Chicago’s schoolteacher turnover falls more in the middle of the pack than in the extremes. The U. of C. study reports that 20 percent of CPS teachers leave their schools each year, slightly higher than the national average for teachers, 16 percent. Compdata Surveys, a human resources research firm, reports that the annual national turnover for business services is 23.6 percent; financial services, 19 percent; health care, 17.9 percent; and not-for-profits, 16.4 percent. Outliers for turnover look more like the hospitality industry: 36.9 percent.

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