Did you know…
- Evidence suggests high teacher turnover negatively affects student achievement? (Carver-Thomas & Darling-Hammond, 2017)
- Teacher vacancies are substantially greater in high-poverty school districts leaving low-income students even further behind? (Carver, 2022)
- Higher teacher retention means less financial strain related to recruitment and onboarding for your district allowing for investment in programs, technology, or tools that students need to learn? (What's the Cost of Teacher Turnover? 2017)
These startling facts are just a few examples of the negative impact of teacher turnover and shortages have on our educational systems and the students those systems exist to serve.
Fortunately, there are specific, effective ways to retain teachers, and as a leader, you are well-positioned to be part of the solution. Consider the following five tips and the examples provided. Can some of these methods work in your building or district?
Develop a system-wide, comprehensive focus on wellness that shows you value all staff members. The creation of a health and wellness plan (for students and adults) can improve physical, mental, emotional, and social well-being both inside and outside of school. Provide mental health systems of support for the adults in your school(s); doing so is linked to lower levels of job-related stress and higher levels of resilience for teachers. Healthy, resilient teachers, who feel valued, are less likely to leave their jobs.
Examples: A positive culture (at all levels) is a must-have for teacher retention, so make it a priority. Plan and implement opportunities for school staff to build relationships, focus on belonging, and tend to their own social and emotional development. Provide classes or groups focused on exercise, nutrition, sleep, stress management, financial planning, etc. Not only do these activities keep teachers healthy, they also help with work-life balance.
Build the capacity of others to support educators. Mentors, instructional coaches, and administrators in buildings and across the district can provide support for new and experienced educators in a variety of ways. Creating an environment of collaboration and teamwork increases the level of support for all stakeholders. As a leader, listen more than you talk. You will learn quite a bit, and when you are actively listening, teachers will feel heard and seen.
Examples: Implement a strong induction program for new staff members that includes mentorship, or register your new teachers for Cultivate: A Program for New Teachers by Teaching Channel. Use instructional coaching, especially video coaching, as a way to support educators as they improve their professional practice (not as a “gotcha”). Encourage involvement by inviting educators to school board meetings or offering opportunities to impact district-level decision-making. Hold quarterly 1:1 meetings between teachers and administrators so teachers can share their opinions, express their concerns, and offer potential solutions.
Find ways to provide flexibility and choice to help teachers achieve work-life balance. Flexibility allows your teachers the chance to take care of their family or themselves at a time that works best for them (i.e. a child’s school lunch event, a daily workout, a dental exam, etc.) They will then complete work tasks in the evening or on weekends. Leaders must trust their teachers and treat them as the responsible professionals they are as all good teachers want to be prepared and organized for the time they spend with students.
Examples: Provide opportunities for teachers to complete preparatory and other non-student-facing responsibilities from home. Let them choose when they will complete these activities. Give teachers choices specific to non-instructional responsibilities like bus duty, committee assignments, and special assignments. Ask educators what they need to achieve work-life balance.
Support a teacher’s desire to learn new things, grow in their professional practice, and move into positions of leadership. This support demonstrates your belief in them and indicates they can reach their career goals in your district or building thus eliminating a reason to leave. Treat educators as experts, trust them to make sound decisions, and involve them in school improvements and decision-making.
Examples: Develop a system that encourages teachers to observe colleagues for new instructional methods or effective classroom management techniques. Empower educators to take control of their professional development through the use of video. Encourage teachers to lead staff development activities and share their best “teacher moves” with the rest of your educators. Provide access to ongoing, choice-driven, professional learning courses or partner with an Institute of Higher Education (IHE) for a discount on advanced degree programs. Help teachers build the skills and autonomy needed to move into leadership positions through coaching or mentoring. Develop and share career paths for the teachers within your organization.
Ensure proper teaching conditions in your school and district. Good teaching conditions are also good learning conditions. This means paying attention to the needs of both the students you serve and the teachers you lead. Invest in quality instructional materials and supplies, keep your facilities safe and clean, advocate for reasonable student-to-teacher ratios, and support your staff (see Tip 2). Factors like family engagement, community support, instructional resources, accessible tools and technology for teaching, student conduct, and a conducive physical environment all play a role in how likely a teacher is to stay in your school or district.
Examples: Apply for grant funding to decrease the cost of instructional materials and technology. Survey your staff on a regular basis to get their input on teaching conditions in your building or district. Collaborate with community partners to ensure basic student needs are met. Create procedures and provide training to ensure both staff and student safety. Provide opportunities for self-evaluation, peer collaboration, and leader support via video coaching.
Research shows that when education leaders, like you, engage in practices to positively impact school working conditions, effective teachers can be retained. (Grissom et al., 2021) When good teachers stay in buildings or districts for an extended period of time, students, families, and communities benefit.
Carver, D. (2022, February 9). Teacher Shortages Take Center Stage. Learning Policy Institute. Retrieved December 1, 2022, from https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/blog/teacher-shortages-take-center-stage
Carver-Thomas, D., & Darling-Hammond, L. (2017, August 16). Teacher Turnover: Why It Matters and What We Can Do About It. Learning Policy Institute. Retrieved December 1, 2022, from https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/product/teacher-turnover-report
Grissom, J., Egalite, A., & Lindsay, C. (2021, February). How Principals Affect Students and Schools: s: A Systematic Synthesis of Two Decades of Research. Wallace Foundation. Retrieved December 1, 2022, from https://www.wallacefoundation.org/knowledge-center/Documents/How-Principals-Affect-Students-and-Schools.pdf
What's the Cost of Teacher Turnover? (2017, September 13). Learning Policy Institute. Retrieved December 1, 2022, from https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/product/the-cost-of-teacher-turnover