Before 2000, teacher turnover received little attention in USA public education. For most of the twenty century, schools could count on a steady supply of college graduates to become teachers, including large numbers of women and men of colour, who typically were excluded from high-status, high-paying professions. When teachers left their jobs, as they often did, it was usually for personal reasons – child-rearing for women (who were routinely forced to resign when they became pregnant) or jobs outside of education for men.
In the late 1960s and 1970s, as the Civil Rights and Women’s Movements spurred changes in social norms and education policy, many new teachers chose to make teaching a lifelong career. However, in the late 1990s when this large cohort started to retire, the candidates who would replace them entered a job market that differed dramatically from the one 30 years earlier. By 2000 teaching’s conventional entrants could choose from the full array of professional fields, such as engineering, law, medicine, and banking, which increasingly recruited women and men of colour whom they once had excluded. No longer did these individuals enter teaching by default. Although most school officials did not realize it at the time, they would soon be competing for talent with other professions that offered better pay, status, and working conditions to college graduates.