Where should we focus or efforts to retain teachers?
Well, a recent study looked at teacher retention, movement, and attrition in Kentucky public schools. The study presented seven significant findings related to reasons teachers stayed, moved, or left either a school-site or the profession as a whole. According to the study rates of retention were “based on select teacher and school characteristics.” Of the seven findings 4 were related to the characteristics of the teacher, 2 to those of the student population, and only 1 to attributes of the community.
Here are the 7 findings as reported by the study sorted by the area of influence:
Teachers stayed in the same school at different rates depending on their age, race/ethnicity, highest degree earned, and experience range.
Teachers moved to a different school at different rates depending on their age, race/ethnicity, and experience range.
Teachers left the public school system at different rates depending on their age, race/ethnicity, highest degree earned, and experience range.
Teachers left the public school system at similar rates regardless of school characteristics.
Teachers stayed in the same school at different rates depending on characteristics of the schools and students served.
Teachers in schools serving a larger proportion of students eligible for the school lunch program moved to a different school at higher rates than teachers in schools serving a smaller proportion.
Teachers in Appalachian and non-Appalachian schools were retained at similar rates.
You can dig into the details of each finding by looking at the study, but I want to focus on the spheres of influence. As principals or colleagues, you have little, if no control over the characteristics of the community. The same can be said of the characteristics of the student population. It is often said that you must teach the kids you get. So, if we want to move the needle, per se, in our efforts to retain our valued teachers, then let’s look at the teacher. Teachers stayed or moved from their current school primarily based on personal characteristics. Yes, it could be as simple as a spouse getting relocated or a grade-level opened up that they had always wanted to teach, but it still comes down to the individual teacher’s vision for their own professional future.
Now, I’m not saying as a colleagues or administrator that we can influence the personal characteristics of teachers in our building. What I am suggesting is this. If we want to retain the teachers we value, we need to be aware of not only who they are, but of what they envision for their professional future. If we can help them to know what they want, we can then help them get them what they need.
To get a better picture of what it is your teachers want, simply ask them. Keep it simple.
Click here for a simple tool to help them see their own future.
We can’t control much, if anything really, but we can focus on areas where we clearly have influence. When it comes to your efforts to retain the teachers you truly want to keep, focus on who they are and helping them define what they want.