Do Bad Apples Make Teachers Quit?

Kyuhan Choi, Syracuse University

Working paper no. 264


Teacher turnover is a significant factor in the teacher shortage problem, and a growing body of research suggests that classroom management plays a critical role in teacher turnover. This paper examines the effect of exposure to misbehaving students on the likelihood of novice teachers leaving their positions within the first five years. I use quasi-random variation in the presence of misbehaving students, using rich data on teachers’ classroom assignments and retention decisions in North Carolina from 2007 to 2015. To address potential sorting issues by school administrators, I instrument the grade-by-school level share of misbehaving students for the classroom-level misbehavior proportions. I find that teachers who have more misbehaving students in their classrooms are more likely to leave their positions within the next three years. Furthermore, it shows suggestive evidence that the adverse impact of misbehaving students on teacher retention may be mitigated in schools with stronger school leadership.