From the Field
4 Findings from the Field About Retention
By Don O'Callaghan published on May 20, 2024
min read
Young students hugging a male teacher sitting at a table in a classroom

Schools are struggling with a hiring crisis. One of the best ways to address the hiring crisis is by trying to retain teachers and reduce the number of new teachers that need to be hired. There’s been considerable effort in understanding effective retention strategies and during the first half of this year, we asked human resources and school personnel experts their views on what is causing attrition and the best ways to promote retention.

Here’s what we’re seeing:

1. Working conditions and low morale continue to drive attrition.

In looking at our responses, 53% of respondents identified that teachers experiencing a challenging work environment was one of their most significant retention concerns. This is coupled with the fact that 41% of respondents identified experiencing low morale as their retention concern as well.

2. Staff are working to address teacher retention.

When we asked how organizations approach retention risks, we found that many respondents were engaging in activities trying to address retention. 53% followed-up with teachers that had left to understand how they could have been retained. As far as proactive strategies, 35% of respondents regularly ask everyone how they are feeling and take action accordingly and/or when it comes to the attention that someone might leave, and take action to retain them.

3. Current proactive teacher retention strategies focus, or would like to focus, on teacher development and support.

As we look at how school systems support retention, we found that 65% of respondents say that they provide additional supports like receiving a mentor or a coach, and that 52% of school systems provide targeted PD and support to improve performance.

As we look at where respondents would like to invest resources, we see a rough parallel: 41% of respondents would like to engage in activities that provide additional support like mentors or coaches, and 65% would like to provide targeted PD and support to improve performance.

4. Opportunity to use mentorship to increase support and improve culture.

From our data, the two dominant responses to address retention involve direct support via professional development and mentorship programs. Traditionally these efforts are rooted in instructional support as opposed to the type of support we associate with “well-being” or culture. When we asked respondents about whether they are intentionally building community as part of retention efforts or would like more information about those responses we found approximately the same response: 24%.

This tells us that our respondents are trying to foster supports, both direct traditional PD and mentorship type programs that are focused on the instructional side – to address the challenges of teaching – but not necessarily the emotional side that addresses issues like morale. It’s a bit like asking teachers to teach children without also addressing their social emotional needs.

There is no reason mentorship programs can’t do both, and do both well.

What’s next?

We should continue to nurture and support school systems as they deliver high-quality, ongoing development and support, via direct professional development or mentorship programs.

But as we reflect on the goal of building community and enhancing morale, we should expand our concept of what it means to have a mentor; or a buddy; or a friend. We are all better when we have connections to one another or other communities. It is a heavy lift for school systems to implement a New Teacher Center type mentoring program, but it doesn’t have to be a heavy lift for school systems to provide soft mentorship opportunities or connections that make their teachers feel like part of the community.

If you’d like more information about how to make this work, schedule a chat with us.

for human resources
school personnel
human capital
teacher retention

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