There’s simply no debating the fever pitch of teacher attrition in recent years. The data doesn’t lie:
In an August 2022 survey of education professionals, 53 percent of public schools reported feeling understaffed. And it wasn’t just the COVID-19 pandemic that triggered this crisis: an Economic Policy Institute report back in 2019 found that “the share of schools that were trying to fill a vacancy but couldn’t tripled from the 2011–2012 to 2015–2016 school years, and in the same period the share of schools that found it very difficult to fill a vacancy nearly doubled.”
In addition to the limited talent pool available to help fill openings left by turnover, the detriment goes far beyond the inconvenience of finding and hiring new candidates. Turnover is dreadfully expensive; even worse, research shows that increased teacher turnover consistently correlates with decreased student achievement in core subjects.
It’s also disruptive to students and school communities. No one enjoys saying goodbye to a beloved educator.
So how can you protect your school community from the teacher turnover crisis?
To begin building your teacher retention strategies, you must trace the reasons that teachers are moving out of the profession in the first place.
Data here, too, is abundant—although not all of the answers are simple. Top reasons for teacher attrition include:
It’s essential to take the pulse of your staff and evaluate what concerns they have, whether any morale emergencies need addressing, and how your school culture is impacting their outlook on their career.
If teacher turnover is a risk to students’ success and communities’ sense of security, then teacher retention is a boon to all—right?
Right! When students work with the same teacher for more than one year, they benefit academically and socially. Similarly, when families with multiple children engage with the same beloved educators year after year, everyone benefits.
Long-term teachers become community and professional leaders, bringing insight and social support to neighbors, fellow teachers, and local families.
With all of this in mind, putting together a list of priorities for your teacher retention strategy is a good next step. What does your staff need? How can you compete with other employers for top talent?
Some of these programs will require financial investment; others are more about socializing the right resources for your teachers. Pursuing a mix of both types will go a long way in helping you hold onto your best educators.
Examples of teacher retention tactics include:
All of these are a great start, but they aren’t overnight solutions. Work closely with your staff to ensure everyone feels involved, engaged, and empowered to make your retention programs successful and helpful for each educator.
Once you do implement some of these programs, don’t turn your back on them. This isn’t a checklist, done-and-dusted venture. Effective teacher retention takes long-term focus and ongoing support.
But don’t worry: it isn’t all on you to understand what’s happening among your educators and guess at what’s working and what isn’t. You should frequently engage your staff for feedback and invite their constructive criticism so you can refine your retention strategies as needed and make teachers feel seen, heard, and appreciated for their work.
One avenue for that feedback can be built into your onboarding programs. Teacher turnover is at its highest in the first few years of an educator’s career; making smart hires is essential, but so is making those new hires feel welcome—and hearing any concerns they have along the way. Learn more about building a sound teacher onboarding program here.
And finally, don’t overlook your recruiting strategy as you update your retention strategy. Our team at interviewstream can show you how these two programs go hand-in-hand. Reach out at any time to learn more about how we can help.
Monique Mahler is the CEO of interviewstream. She is an avid researcher of facts, a self proclaimed marketing geek, and an equestrian in her spare time.