Gwinnett teacher turnover rate outpaces state, national average

Credit: Natrice Miller /

Credit: Natrice Miller /

Georgia’s largest school district is in multiyear effort to improve staffing

One of the major drivers of teacher recruitment challenges in Gwinnett County Public Schools has been the district’s high number of teachers leaving or changing schools, according to a talent management consultant.

Amid national concerns of a teacher shortage, Gwinnett, the state’s largest district, was fully staffed for the start of this school year and even added positions to reduce class sizes. However, Monica Rosen, chief executive of Alma Advisory Group, said at Thursday’s school board meeting that the district has outpaced state and national rates of teacher turnover in recent years.

From 2019 through 2022, 13.25% of teachers left the district or moved schools within Gwinnett, compared to 8.9% in Georgia and 10.9% nationally, Rosen said, citing federal and state education data.

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Rosen made several recommendations that Chief Human Resources Officer Cathy Hardin said are under development as part of a multiyear effort to improve both recruiting and retention. Immediate steps include adjusting the hiring cycle to start earlier in the year and launching a digital recruitment campaign. Staff are working on initiatives such as enhancing teacher leadership opportunities and diversifying the workforce.

“Your recruitment challenges are by and large exacerbated by a retention challenge,” Rosen said. “Addressing retention in your schools will significantly reduce pressure on filling vacancies year over year.”

In schools where 75% of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, the turnover is 14.7% nationally. In Gwinnett, it’s 20.7%. Rosen also noted that teachers in these schools tend to be the least experienced. She said the district should work to reverse that trend, hiring veteran teachers for these schools and keeping teachers in them.

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Gwinnett’s retention challenges have been greater among new hires, Rosen said. About 20% of teachers hired in the 2018-2019 school year left the district after a year, and 40% left by their third year. The national average is for 9% of teachers to leave after a year and 30% to leave by their third year.

Teacher exit surveys showed about 70% of teachers who left Gwinnett felt they did not have effective mentors in the same grade or subject, Rosen said. Teachers also said they didn’t have regular communication with administrators and that their feedback was ineffective.

Board members asked several questions about diversifying the workforce while working on hiring and retention.

Rosen noted that Gwinnett’s teaching force has become more diverse over the past five years but is still far different than student demographics. About one-third of Gwinnett students are Latino, compared to just under 6% of teachers. Rosen highlighted that across Georgia, about 2.8% of teachers are Latino.

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About one-third of Gwinnett students are Black, compared to 23.6% of teachers. However, that’s lower than the state proportion — 27% of Georgia teachers are Black.

Hardin said recruitment staff will undergo anti-bias training to help account for factors that may affect hiring. Board Chair Tarece Johnson also asked that teachers from underrepresented backgrounds have the opportunity to have input in retention efforts.

Rosen advised that further diversification may require a national recruiting focus.

Here are some key statistics concerning teacher turnover in Gwinnett County:

13.25% of teachers left the district or moved schools within Gwinnett from 2019 to 2022.

In schools where 75% of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, 20.7% of teachers left.

40% of teachers hired during the 2018-2019 school year left by their third year.

Source: Gwinnett County Public Schools