I was alarmed when I read recently that the teacher turnover rate for most districts in the United States is close to 20 percent. This undoubtedly is problematic with regards to student achievement and school budgets. According to recent research conducted by NCT (National Teaching Commission) and America’s Future, it is estimated that the 20% turnover rate will cast $7.3 billion a year. If we know that a high teacher turnover rate hinders students achievement, diminishes staff morale, and blows budgets, then why aren’t we doing all that we can to retain quality teachers?
The New Teacher Project (TNTP), July 2012
In July 2012, The New Teacher Project (TNTP), a national non-profit focused on effective teaching, released The Irreplaceable: Understanding the Real Retention Crisis in America’s Urban Schools. The research examined over 90, 000 teachers spanning four large, diverse urban school districts and used value-added test data to establish criteria for an “irreplaceable” teacher. The New Teacher project identifies an irreplaceable teacher as one who is so successful at advancing student learning that he or she is nearly impossible to replace. The irreplaceable are our “very best” teachers. They not only advance test score, but they make differences in the lives of their students and families they serve. Students whose teachers help them make gains are more likely to go on to higher education, earn higher salaries as adults and are less likely to become teenage parents.
Sounds like the type of teachers we want to keep, right? So how can we keep them happy and working for our schools?
Think back to when you first began teaching…I know, I am asking a lot! What was your induction like? What supports were in place? Did you have a mentor? If your experience was anything like mine, you are feeling cheated right now. But honestly, the induction process is so very important and school districts across the Unites States could study Baltimore City Public Schools (BCPS) in Maryland to learn how valuable induction and support models are to new teachers.
BCPS has implemented site-based mentoring and an end-of-year reflective institute for first year teachers. Pay increases are awarded based on achievement units – credits for professional development, evaluation scores, and teacher effectiveness. As a result, BCPS has eliminated the step or lane salary increases. BCPS has also partnered up with Building a Teaching Effectiveness Network (BTEN), a program developed in partnership with the American Federation of Teachers; Institute of Healthcare Improvement; the Carnegie Foundation; and three partnering school divisions in Austin, Texas, Baltimore, Maryland, and New York City. BTEN allows BCPS to be more diagnostic about assessing and meeting the needs of new teachers.
According to the TNTP report, The Irreplaceables, teachers want to be recognized for their accomplishments publicly. They also reported wanting to be told that they are “high-performing.” While this may seem like a “no-brainer” you would be surprised how many times I am told stories by teachers who would have stayed in the profession doing what they loved if “someone would have actually noticed the great works they were doing.” Compliments and praise are free! Genuinely praise someone in your building or district today – the results may astound you!
Having had the opportunity to sit on many school improvement panels over the years, I am always perplexed when I see the same faces around the table time and time again. As leaders, we should “share the wealth” and identify paths for teacher leader roles – yes, this means getting to know folks and their strengths and weaknesses! I challenge each of you to go out of your way and empower a teacher today! Put them in charge of something that matters to them and that is important. This goes a long way during a time when budgets are tight and it costs nothing!
Provide Necessary Resources
Enlist the help of your PTOs and PTAs. Fundraise, get creative but help them get the tools they need to be able to teach our children. Build this into your school improvement plan and be strategic so that each team can get some of the items that they have been requesting. Find out what is important to them and make efforts to obtain what is needed to meet their needs.
In this age of teacher effectiveness, we must get better at recognizing and empowering our “rock star” teachers. With a national teacher turnover rate at nearly 20 percent, we cannot afford not to.
Source: The Irreplaceables: Understanding the Real Retention Crisis in America’s Urban Schools (p.16), TNTP, 2012, New York, NY: TNTP.