Stopping the Revolving Door: An Empirical and Textual Study of Crowdfunding and Teacher Turnover
44 Pages Posted: 8 Nov 2021
Date Written: November 3, 2021
The public K-12 education system has been plagued by high teacher turnover and poor retention rates, a problem that traditional school systems have not been able to cost-effectively address using top-down, one-size-fits-all resource allocation models. This study provides the first empirical evidence that new technology platforms such as education crowdfunding could effectively reduce teacher turnover, despite the much smaller funding amounts on these platforms. Combining (1) identified data on the characteristics and employment record for all teachers in the Pennsylvania public education system, (2) crowdfunding data on DonorsChoose---the largest online education crowdfunding portal, and (3) unstructured data on individual project essays and need statements, we demonstrate that funded projects on DonorsChoose, averaging only about $400 in value, significantly reduces turnover rates of funded teachers by 2.66 percentage points (pp)---a 22% reduction against a mean turnover rate of 12 percent. Moreover, crowdfunding achieves this turnover reduction effect by alleviating two key root causes of turnover: inadequacy of working environment and lack of teacher autonomy. Integrating the outputs from our textual analysis with our empirical model, we show that the turnover reduction effect is concentrated in projects requesting resources that directly impact the teachers' working environment, such as furniture projects, and in projects proposed by more innovative teachers who might desire more autonomy in their teaching process. Our results thus indicate that crowdfunding platforms could effectively reduce teacher turnover, as they are designed to deliver more targeted solutions that address inefficiencies in individual teachers’ classroom operations.
Keywords: education technology, people operations, crowdfunding, teacher turnover, text analytics
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation