DA op-ed: How to get the best teachers to stay

By: | June 18, 2019
Photo by Sean Kong

Teacher turnover is getting worse by the minute. If you’re in the unenviable position of finding people to fill the shoes of some of your best former teachers, know that you’re not alone. More than eight percent of U.S. teachers are leaving the profession every year. It’s clear that it’s hard to find highly-qualified teachers, and it’s because of many legitimate challenges facing the profession.

Let’s take a closer look at why teachers are leaving their jobs and dive into some ways you can beat the odds.

Gratitude doesn’t pay

Ask anyone and they’ll agree: Teachers totally deserve better pay. With one in five teachers having to hold a second job to make ends meet, it’s no wonder educators are taking to the streets to demand fair compensation. Despite recent protests, many would-be educators have already determined a career in teaching just isn’t worth it.

Incentives and bonuses could make major differences in an educator’s life. Motivate teachers through:

  • Offering a retention bonus to keep the best teachers on board
  • Integrate case bonuses or salary increases to give tangible ways to improve earnings
  • Offering benefits like medical, flex schedules, or financial planning services

If this isn’t doable in your case, keep reading. There are some budget-friendly tips to help you retain qualified staff.

Education leaders need to ensure they provide programs teachers actually need to thrive.

No collaboration, no retention

According to a Globoforce study, companies with peer-to-peer recognition programs were 35 percent more likely to have less turnover. Likewise, teachers whose schools have strong collaboration models report dramatically higher satisfaction with their day-to-day work.

Foster a more encouraging environment by:

  • Integrating formal collaboration into the master schedule
  • Advocating for shared lesson planning
  • Promoting a positive culture around peer-to-peer support and collaboration

Offset uncertainty with relevant PD

According to The Center for American Progress, “the American educational system has been more successful at producing professional development (PD) quantity than quality.”

Education leaders need to ensure they provide programs teachers actually need to thrive.
Don’t assume you know what teachers want and need—let them decide their professional development.

Make professional development programs interactive. According to the research, the best PD programs usually involve hands-on strategies.

Get someone who knows what it’s like to be in their shoes to deliver the training. According to one survey respondent: “The best PD has been when a teacher shows me what has revolutionized their classroom—anything a fellow teacher who’s still in the classroom has to say beats out anything else.”

Crosscheck evaluations to get meaningful feedback from teachers enrolled in PD programs.

Give them voice

According to a 2018 Gallup report, 52 percent of U.S.-based K-12 teachers say they should have a great deal of input in school decisions, but only seven percent say their input is considered.

Here’s how you can help give your educators a voice:

  • Encourage a more transparent exchange of feedback between teachers and administrators
  • Give teachers a greater sense of autonomy by allowing them to select their own methods and materials
  • Encourage your teachers to seek out and implement innovative teaching approaches in their classrooms

Read: Turning the tide on teacher shortages


Lead like you mean it

Administrative support is essential to retaining talent. Teachers who don’t feel supported by their leaders and administrators are more than twice as likely to leave their jobs than teachers who do feel well-supported. However, it can be difficult for administrators to provide that support with pressure coming from all directions.

Some approaches to consider are:

  • Improve communication channels to bridge the gap between teachers and administrators
  • Use the school’s mission to inspire teachers at every opportunity
  • Hire a trained coach in order to reduce skepticism

If we take a deeper look at the issue, solving the teacher turnover crisis is clearly about more than money. In a world where some of our most admirable workers aren’t getting the credit they deserve, a sense of autonomy and a belief in the future can help keep them inspired and committed.

Darren Bounds is the CEO and founder of Breezy HR, the applicant tracking system that keeps hiring human.