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How to Improve Teacher Retention

Educational leaders are responsible for many aspects of running a school. They evaluate staff performance, provide feedback, ensure students reach achievement goals and hire staff. Recent data shows that high staff turnover is a common problem in schools. As a result, schools need to find ways to improve teacher retention.

The Realities of Teacher Shortages

Seven Trends: The Transformation of the Teaching Force, a study from the Consortium for Policy Research in Education, references multiple studies on teacher turnover. It states that more than 41 percent of new teachers leave the profession within five years. Furthermore, schools with a high number of students living in poverty and who self-identify as minorities deal with higher turnover.

U.S. public schools struggle with teacher shortage in many subjects. A list of teacher shortage areas by state from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Postsecondary Education identifies grades, subject matter or discipline, and counties that need more teachers.

Educational leaders can check the list to determine the teacher shortage areas in their state.

Between the high turnover and teacher shortage areas, schools need their educational leaders to work on retaining qualified teachers.

"Improving Teacher Retention With Shyam Kumar" says high performers and low performers differ in their reasons for leaving. "A lot of it comes down to leadership. People don't leave organizations -- they leave people," says Kumar, founder and CEO of NorthStar Education Partners.

Kumar cites a second factor contributing to turnover: teachers receive feedback and coaching from leaders who have not taught their subject areas. The third factor is the lack of support for teachers who deal with difficult students and their families.

Effective Teacher Retention Strategies

The first step in improving teacher retention is to verify that educational leaders and teachers agree on the definition of excellence. Moreover, staff members need professional development that puts them on the path toward the defined excellence.

Many schools fail in professional development because they depend on whole-group training that does not connect to staff members' jobs. Instructional coaching, on the other hand, which is job-embedded and delivered in real time has been shown to make a difference.

Retaining high-performing teachers requires that schools and districts support the teachers' ambitions. High performers want a chance to gain leadership skills and to grow through instructional or policy-oriented opportunities. Districts and schools can provide opportunities by allowing these teachers to lead professional development or coach teachers. For policy-oriented opportunities, teachers can join a task or advisory group.

Schools and districts that lack leadership opportunities or want to provide more can partner with organizations. Examples of such programs/organizations include the Core Collaborative (C2) initiative, National Academy of Advanced Teacher Education (NAATE), LearnZillion, BetterLesson's Master Teacher Project and Leading Educators Fellowship.

The last recommendation involves creating flexible roles and staffing structure. Schools and districts can implement innovative solutions such as permitting job-sharing, developing hybrid roles or hiring associate teachers to work with a mentor. A flexible staffing structure lets teachers grow professionally while maintaining work-life balance. Teachers with happier personal and professional lives tend to stick around.

Learn more about Northwest Missouri State University's Master of Science in Education in Educational Leadership online program.


Learning Policy Institute: Teacher Turnover: Why It Matters and What We Can Do About It

Consortium for Policy Research in Education: Seven Trends: The Transformation of the Teaching Force

Thriving Schools: Improving Teacher Retention With Shyam Kumar

U.S. Department of Education: Teacher Shortage Areas - Nationwide Listing

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