An Examination of the Movement of Educators Within and Across Three Midwest Region States

Michael Podgursky and Mark Ehlert, University of Missouri–Columbia

Education leaders have expressed concern about educators’ moving to different schools—within the same state or in another state—because these moves create costs for the home district and have potential impacts on the equitable distribution of effective educators among schools. However, many states do not routinely monitor mobility among educators.

This study is the first to examine educator mobility using the same methodology across Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The findings provide initial insights into the intrastate and interstate mobility of educators and whether educators are more likely to move away from certain types of schools (raising the issue of equitable distribution of educators), whether some states are losing substantial numbers of teachers to neighboring states, and whether states are obtaining substantial numbers of educators from neighboring states.

In fall 2012, Minnesota members of the Midwest Educator Effectiveness Research Alliance requested that Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest examine two issues: anecdotal evidence suggested that a substantial number of educators were leaving urban schools that serve low-income students to work in suburban schools that serve more affluent students, and that a disproportionate number of teachers were leaving positions in Minnesota schools to take teaching positions in the neighboring states of Iowa and Wisconsin.

In response to these concerns, REL Midwest conducted a study on the mobility of teachers and administrators in public schools within and between Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The study was supported by representatives of the state education agency in each state.

Key Findings

  • The average annual percentage of teachers and administrators moving to another school in the same state each year between 2006/07 and 2010/11 was 6.8 percent in Iowa, 9.3 percent in Minnesota, and 8.2 percent in Wisconsin.
  • The annual intrastate mobility rate for teachers ranged from 5.5 percent to 7.1 percent in Iowa, 8.4 percent to 9.8 percent in Minnesota, and 7.0 percent to 10.7 percent in Wisconsin between 2006/07 and 2010/11.
  • The percentage of educators working in one school in 2006/07 and another school in the same state in 2011/12 was 19.3 percent in Iowa, 21.0 percent in Minnesota, and 19.7 percent in Wisconsin.
  • The teacher mobility rate varied by subject area taught and across regions within states. Special education and foreign language teachers had the highest mobility rates in all three states.
  • Teachers were more likely to move to another school if they had less teaching experience, were in an urban school, or taught in a school with lower average academic performance, fewer students, or more economically disadvantaged students. The relationships between these characteristics and the mobility of principals were less consistent.
  • Between 2005/06 and 2011/12 total exits and inflows of educators among these three states totaled less than 0.1 percent of the average educator workforce.
Principal Researcher
Yinmei Wan
Senior Researcher