Seeing High Quality Teachers Leave the Classroom? These Three Changes Will Help Improve Teacher Retention in Schools

vacant white painted classroom with chairs, tables , and map on the wall

In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

James 2:17 NIV

Our Current State of Education

The Staggering Cost of Teacher Attrition

As you may already know, there is a huge teacher shortage crisis going on across the nation. In every state, we are seeing teachers either change jobs or move out of the field of education altogether. This is nothing normal as we have seen teachers come and go from the field of education for over twenty years.

The problem now is that more teachers, especially teachers in their first five years of teaching, are leaving the field of education at a higher rate. On the other end, teacher preparation programs across the country are seeing lower enrollments in their education programs over the last 10 years.

Today we are going to address why so many educators are leaving the profession and not looking back. Why are college freshman not enrolling in education courses at their colleges and universities? We will explore all of these topics and some ways for districts and universities to collaborate to recruit and retain great teachers.

Problems with Teacher Retention and Attrition

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Why is it that teachers are leaving the profession and choosing other careers? According to the Learning Policy Institute, there are 5 major factors in which educators make the decision to stay in a building or a district or leave to pursue another teaching position or career altogether.

  • Salary and Compensation– The salary is low compared to other industries and typically not a ladder for added responsibilities with added compensation
  • Cost of Teacher Preparation vs Entry Level Salary- The cost of today’s undergraduate degrees and with so many students have loans to pay back, more and more college grads are choosing other professions that will help them pay off their loans sooner.
  • Induction and Support for New Teachers– A solid mentor program with supports in place for the first 3-5 years of teaching gives new teachers confidence in their profession and are more willing to stick it out. New teachers often get one semester to run a classroom by themselves and then they are in the classroom in many cases to learn as they go without frequent guidance from veteran teachers.
  • Working Conditions within the Building and/or District- Supportive administration, positive school climate and culture helps to promote teacher retention. Over worked and underappreciated teachers are the first ones to leave the profession because they are not treated as the professionals that they are.

Below are some graphs from the Learning Policy Institute showing the percentages of why teachers leave the classroom:

What Would Bring Quality Educators to Our Districts?

Now that we know why teachers are either leaving the profession in record numbers or not entering the profession in the first place, what can we do about it? I think we have to look more deeply to what educators are saying would either draw them into the field of education or bring them back into teaching. Looking at the chart below, educators feel that salary and benefits along with decreasing the class sizes and workload would be a huge draw for educators.

We certainly have the gift of time with the summers off as well as many other breaks during the school year. Even with that in mind, the current stressors of the classroom workload, limited resources and support, and seeing retirement benefits being cut year after year are keeping great teachers away from the classroom.

A teacher was once looked upon as a highly regarded position, but nowadays it seems like that is not the case. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic though, Our teachers deserve better, and our students certainly deserve the best teachers no matter what schools they attend.

What States, Districts, Colleges, and Universities Can Do To Keep High Quality Teachers in the Classroom

  • Districts Should Partner with Teacher Prep Institutions- Districts, colleges and universities need to have strong recruitment strategy that incorporates a partnership between teacher preparation institution and the school districts that will be hiring these candidates. Partnerships should include some sort of tuition reimbursement for students at least on some level to help attract more candidates.
  • Support Student Teachers with On-the-Job Training- Districts and colleges should be able to partner up together to give student teachers some sort of compensation for the work that they are doing in the classrooms during their senior year. If this was possible, there could be more on the job training for these teachers who know, and are comfortable where they are working before they start in their own classrooms.
  • Clear Ladder for Advancement and Compensation– Districts that struggle to retain great teachers, especially in high need areas around the country, could come up with contracts that give more compensation to those who live within the school district boundaries. Also, teachers who sign a multi-year contract could receive a bonus that could either go towards their student loans, cash, or towards an advanced degree. Teachers also need to see that there is a growth plan in place for them. They want opportunities to learn and grow. With growth and responsibility, should come appropriate compensation.

The Benefits Outweighs the Costs

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For many districts around the country, the cost of training new staff and providing ongoing eductation is a huge price for school systems. For schools with high turnover, this is even worse because they are spending this money year after year because they training up new teachers and then they leave to find another job after they have experience or they leave altogether.

School districts, teacher prep institutions, and state governments should work together to build a stronger pipeline of high quality educators for our next generation of students. We need to continue to look for ways to as mentioned above to keep great teachers in the classroom with possibilities of advancement, while also filling the teacher shortages we are seeing all across the country.

Looking For a Gift for the Teacher in Your life?

Are looking for a gift for teachers that is is full of words of encouragement, and practical advice to get you through each day of the school year? Teaching For God’s Glory- Daily Wisdom and Inspiration for New Teachers is the book for you! This book has helped new and veteran teachers alike plan for the school year while having the perspective of many veteran teachers from across the country. This is the book that I wish I had when I graduated from college and entered my first classroom. Visit www.tylerharmsauthor.com for more details!

Have a great week everyone and stay safe and healthy out there!

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