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Teacher Retention: 11 Ways to Reduce Teacher Turnover

Approximately 8% of teachers leave the profession each year. Teachers also retire, move into administrative roles and accept non-teaching positions within their schools. If retirements, resignations and transfers are affecting your retention rate, follow these tips to increase teacher retention.

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11 tips for increasing your teacher retention rate

1. Start a mentorship program for new teachers

Typically, a new teacher has earned a bachelor’s degree, passed at least one certification exam and completed a student teaching program. Some states even require new hires to submit teaching portfolios or complete additional training. Although this training is helpful, it doesn’t necessarily prepare brand-new teachers for the realities of managing a classroom.

If you want new teachers to stay with your school, offer as much support as possible. One way to do this is to set up a formal mentorship program. Teacher mentoring programs typically pair new teachers with experienced teachers. Mentees have opportunities to observe other classrooms, ask questions and seek advice when they encounter teaching-related challenges.

2. Look for ways to reduce stress

A teaching job comes with many responsibilities, such as delivering instruction, maintaining order in the classroom, having conferences with parents and grading papers. In some schools, teachers also run after-school clubs, tutor students who need extra help, coach sports teams and make sure students get on the right buses at the end of each day.

To reduce the risk of burnout, look for ways to reduce stress among members of your teaching staff. If possible, have school administrators or other employees handle bus duty and lunch duty. Another option is to rotate duty assignments to ensure everyone gets a break once in a while.

3. Be consistent with discipline

The quality of teacher-student relationships has a big impact on teacher retention. To make it easier for teachers to build positive relationships, make sure you’re consistent with discipline. Just like students need to know what to expect from their teachers, your staff needs to know what to expect from you.

If teachers know you’ll back them up when it comes to lunch detentions, suspensions and other disciplinary measures, they may stay at your school instead of looking for employment elsewhere.

4. Create professional learning communities

In a professional learning community (PLC), teachers work together to improve student outcomes. As part of this collaborative process, PLC members collect data, try out new practices and share their results.

If you’re not already using the PLC model, consider creating professional learning communities for the teachers in your school. You may want to group teachers according to the subjects they teach or how many years of experience they have. PLCs improve relationships among team members, give teachers a renewed sense of purpose and create opportunities for reflection. Once teachers experience these benefits, they may be less likely to leave your school, contributing to a reduced teacher turnover rate.

5. Plan appropriate professional development activities

If you offer professional development opportunities, make sure they’re relevant to your teachers. Some schools require every teacher to attend training on math testing, language arts teaching strategies and other topics that don’t necessarily relate to their jobs.

For example, an art teacher who doesn’t administer math tests or teach language arts might benefit more from a class on finding low-cost art supplies or incorporating a new artistic technique into their lesson plans.

6. Use a fair evaluation process

Evaluating teachers is an important part of an administrator’s job. If you don’t use a fair process, however, your evaluations may lead to increased teacher attrition. One easy way to make the process more fair is to schedule each evaluation rather than showing up unannounced. If you try to conduct an evaluation when a teacher is giving a test or giving students a chance to catch up on their work, there won’t be much for you to observe.

If you schedule evaluations ahead of time, your teachers will know that they should deliver a full lesson rather than setting aside time for makeup assignments and other activities. Take plenty of notes so that you don’t have to remember everything off the top of your head when you’re writing your reports.

When it’s time to deliver the results, praise teachers for what they did well. If a teacher needs some improvement in a few areas, provide constructive feedback. This is especially important when you’re evaluating teachers who only have one or two years of experience.

7. Improve the work environment

Creating a positive work environment is another good way to increase teacher retention. If your school has paraprofessionals or full-time substitute teachers, ask them to pitch in and help when they can. For example, a teacher might need a bathroom break before their lunch period. If someone can cover their class for a few moments, they can attend to their needs and get right back to teaching.

It’s also important to keep classrooms as comfortable as possible. Make sure each teacher has an ergonomic chair and a desk with plenty of room for collecting assignments, grading tests, taking attendance and performing other teaching tasks.

8. Solicit feedback from teachers

Teachers want to feel heard and appreciated. To increase teacher retention, make sure you ask for feedback regularly. You can conduct formal employee surveys, have one-on-one conversations with employees or ask for feedback at the end of each staff meeting.

Once you have feedback, either take action or explain why you can’t make changes right away. For example, if you can’t replace a teacher’s SMART Board due to budget constraints, don’t leave them hanging. Let them know about the budget issues and then find a way to overcome the problem. Perhaps an inexpensive whiteboard will suffice until your district releases funds for additional purchases.

9. Limit class sizes

Large classes are more difficult to manage, and they make it difficult for teachers to meet the unique needs of every student. Depending on how many students are in a classroom, it may also be difficult for teachers to walk around and provide feedback on student projects. These stressful circumstances may lead to increased teacher turnover.

If possible, limit class sizes to ensure every teacher has the opportunity to deliver individualized instruction. With fewer students, it’s much easier to assess strengths and weaknesses, provide the accommodations outlined in individualized education plans and provide extra assistance. Small classes may also increase morale, improving your teacher retention rate.

10. Advocate for higher pay

Many districts follow a standardized pay scale that rarely changes, so you may not be able to offer raises or bonuses. However, consider advocating for higher teacher pay.

One reason some teachers leave the profession is because the pay is low compared to the amount of work required. It also costs a significant amount of money to obtain an education degree and pass the required certification exams. Advocating for higher pay shows teachers that you value their professional contributions.

11. Give each teacher at least one prep period daily

Teachers need time to create lesson plans, grade papers, communicate with parents and perform other tasks. If they don’t have planning periods, they have to do much of that work in the evening or on weekends. Teachers don’t get paid extra for completing job-related tasks on their days off, so the lack of planning time may hurt your retention rate.

If you can’t offer a planning period every day, make sure that every teacher has at least some planning time built into their schedule. For example, you may have someone teach a class between 2:00 and 2:50pm. on Mondays and Wednesdays. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, they can use that time slot for planning.

Teacher retention FAQs

What is the meaning of teacher retention?

Teacher retention has two meanings in an employment context. In general terms, retention refers to an organization’s ability to prevent employee turnover. Teacher retention is also an emerging field of research that focuses on what makes teachers leave their schools or stay for another year.

What is the biggest barrier to teacher retention?

The biggest barrier to teacher retention is burnout. A UCLA survey of more than 4,600 California teachers revealed that 57% of respondents cite burnout as their top reason for thinking about leaving the profession.

Why is teacher retention a problem?

Teacher retention is important because it affects the smooth operation of schools around the country. If your retention rate is low, you have to spend more time searching for replacements. You may have to cut after-school programs, consolidate classes or take other actions to address the shortage of teachers. Low retention may also affect your school’s ability to deliver quality instruction.

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