Top 3 reasons for teacher turnover (other than salary)

by | Jun 25, 2019 | Equity and Excellence, Hiring and Retention, School Improvement, Students At Risk, Teacher Professional Development

Teacher turnover in schools is disruptive to a students’ ability to learn, especially in low performing schools. When teacher retention is an issue, principals may find it challenging to meet their student achievement targets and the hiring of new teachers because it is time-consuming. 

How does teacher turnover affect the achievement gap?

You may not be surprised to learn that teachers are almost twice as likely to leave schools in high poverty areas. Additionally, schools with a high percentage of minority students are significantly more likely to experience turnover among new teachers. These schools are already the most affected by the achievement gap (sometimes known as the equity gap), and high teacher turnover only further exacerbates the issue.

Here are some of the ways teacher turnover can prevent schools from closing the achievement gap:

  • Students lose continuity and predictability in their learning when a teacher leaves during the school year.
  • Students and parents must begin the trust-building process with a new teacher in the middle of the school year.
  • The overall the school culture and learning community is disrupted when familiar teachers leave.
  • Schools may be forced to hire less qualified teachers due to time constraints and a limited hiring pool.

What are the top three predictors for teacher turnover?

Many community members seem to believe that raising teacher salaries could solve the turnover issue, but this complex issue requires school systems to address other underlying causes.

Research suggests that the top three predictors for teacher turnover are:

  1. Teacher preparation— Teachers need support through mentor relationships, professional development opportunities, and coaching support. These resources allow educators to develop the skills needed to teach students from diverse backgrounds.
  2. School leadership— Principals must be viewed by the teachers in their schools as the instructional leader and master educator.  The research about highly effective school principals’ states that these leaders participate in ongoing professional development opportunities, mentoring and coaching supports that are aligned to their professional growth goals and student achievement targets. Teachers need to know that the instructional leader has the knowledge and skills to support them in their classrooms.
  3. School culture— The instructional leader must collaborate with the school community to create a culture of distributive leadership that is guided by a clear mission, vision, policies, and procedures.  Teachers must be included in the decision making process that is informed by student achievement results.

How can schools offer better teacher preparation?

Teachers need a mentor relationship, either with a seasoned educator or the principal, to feel supported during their first few years of teaching. A mentor helps new teachers feel less isolated and can provide resources when unfamiliar situations arise.

Teachers also need regular evaluations and professional coaching from principals. When principals dedicate time to observing teachers in the classroom and provide bite-sized actionable feedback, teachers are better prepared to close the achievement gap.

Schools, districts, and states can offer further teacher support through outside professional development opportunities. For example, professional education consultants can offer an outside perspective and training to teachers facing specific classroom challenges.

How can districts and states develop strong school leadership?

School systems need to create training pathways or invest in expert support for principals to learn core instructional leadership competencies. Mentor or coaching relationships can also keep principals on track with their professional development growth goals.

Principals should be encouraged to set student achievement goals based on data gathered from the school, district, geographic region, and successful schools in other regions. Data should inform principals’ intervention and instructional methods.

In addition, school systems should not depend on principals alone for strong leadership. Student achievement improves when leadership responsibilities are shared among principals, teachers, coaches, and other staff.

How can school leaders improve the culture and climate?

Teachers feel engaged in their school when the overall culture and climate is focused on improving student achievement. Schools must start building an effective culture with a clear mission and vision that is aligned to school improvement strategies. 

Here are some tactics schools can use to support a healthy culture and climate:

  • Encourage and offer opportunities for professional development.
  • Consider outside stakeholders who can support student learning, such as parents, community organizations, local businesses, and outside consultants.
  • Incorporate collaborative leadership, and instruction techniques.
  • Consider research, evidence-based practices and strategies to improve equitable practices in hiring, professional development opportunities, curriculum, and instruction.

How can CSAS help your school system reduce teacher turnover?

CSAS provides customized solutions to help districts and schools meet and exceed school improvement targets.  We offer professional development and job-embedded coaching support for instructional leadership development, effective teacher development, one-on-one coaching, curriculum, and instruction. Schedule a free call with us to talk about how we can support your school system.

Chandra Williams, Ed.D. has worked in various senior leadership positions such as the state education department director of curriculum and instruction, professional development, training, coaching, and technical assistance, chief academic officer, director of second opportunity schools, school turnaround principal, special education teacher, and clinical social worker.  

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