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teacher retention practices in place at a school with a classroom full of teachers

How has teacher turnover changed, and how will it evolve in the future?

After navigating burnout, and facing health and safety concerns, among other challenges, teachers in a post-pandemic world are facing more complex obstacles than ever before.

Recent surveys are showing that impending teacher departures are primarily driven by concerns related to compensation, unreasonable expectations, and a lack of support for their well-being. Another news report shares research showing evidence that teacher shortages are surpassing pre-pandemic levels, worsening in many states. 

With nearly a quarter of teachers surveyed by the RAND Corp. early this year planning to leave by the end of last school year, it’s clear that teacher retention strategies are more crucial than ever.

We asked our team of in-house recruitment experts for their insights on how teacher retention has changed and how it will evolve in the future. With 20 years of experience in teacher recruitment and teacher retention strategies, Teach Away’s uniquely deep understanding of the ever-evolving dynamics in education positions us to provide valuable guidance for the road ahead. 

We gathered the reasons why teachers are leaving the profession, and connected the dots with common types of preventative retention practices currently in place, with new, keen insights into how these practices are evolving or can evolve. 

Why Are Teachers Leaving The Profession?

Teacher Salaries Are Not Matching Inflation

Teacher salaries are failing to keep up with the rising cost of living. According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report, teacher salaries have stagnated over the last two decades. One report notes that any progress made in teacher salaries after the Great Recession was halted due to the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and high inflation.

What retention practices are in place?

If salary increases aren’t an option, which is a likely case, schools are offering additional benefits, like health insurance, professional development funds, and personal days, to increase overall compensation and improve job satisfaction.

Where we see things heading:

  1. Formalized Professional Development and Career Progression Plans: Schools might implement more structured and comprehensive professional development programs for all new hires. This could include mentoring, training, and advancement opportunities to help teachers grow in their careers and feel supported in their roles.
  2. Privatization of the School Industry: An increase in roles for private entities in the education sector. This could involve more private schools, charter schools, or partnerships between public schools and private organizations. The implications of increased privatization could be diverse and might impact aspects such as funding models, curriculum design, and the overall structure of the education system.

Stress From the Pandemic and Burnout

Teachers are burned out. After the 2021-22 school year, teachers in eight states left the profession at the highest rate in at least five years. The article acknowledges that while eight states aren’t representative of an entire country, further data from this year shows that school district leaders are reporting a four percentage point increase in teacher turnover. Burnout is attributed to this increase, as well as overall workload, long hours, and rising frustration. One report indicates that increased stress levels, difficulties with student behavior, and intense political scrutiny are also causing teachers to resign. 

Retention practices in place to prevent burnout:

Schools are establishing teacher welfare groups, safe spaces for teachers to share their feelings, and mental health supports (e.g. wellness apps like Calm and Headspace).

Where we see things heading:

  1. Flexibility For Work-Life Balance: The ongoing evolution of remote work and online learning could lead to more sophisticated systems that offer even greater flexibility for teachers.
  2. “Grow Your Own” Programs: GYO programs, or teacher certification programs designed to license teachers quickly, are gaining momentum, and encouraging the development of local talent. Schools invested in nurturing these communities to retain and empower their educators.
  3. Continue Creating Safe Places for Teachers to Talk: Schools may invest in creating more structured forums for open conversations, which can contribute to a healthier and more supportive work environment.
  4. Continue Mental Health Supports – Wellness Apps: More access to and usage of wellness apps and online therapy. Such apps offer convenient and accessible tools for stress management, and schools may further integrate them into their wellness programs.

Student Behavioral Issues & Abuse

After a post-lockdown return to the classroom, behavior issues have surged, including fights, hurtful comments, and short tempers. Schools nationwide are observing similar disruptions due to pandemic-related stressors and worsening student mental health and behavior.

Retention practices in place:

Schools are creating positive and supportive environments that center students’ social and emotional learning (SEL). Some social and emotional skills include self-awareness, self-regulation, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. 

Where we see things heading:

  1. Continued Support For SEL Programs: SEL programs foster a positive and supportive learning environment, reduce behavior problems, and improve students’ social and emotional well-being. SEL is an effective strategy for addressing various core elements of school safety and health, including safe learning environments, violence prevention, substance abuse prevention, social and emotional support, mental health services, and early childhood SEL programs.
  2. Intervention Specialists: A proactive response to behavioral issues and abuse could involve an increased focus on intervention specialists, special education needs (SEN) teachers, and counselors. Schools may invest in these professionals to provide targeted support and interventions for both teachers and students, fostering a safer and more conducive learning environment.
  3. Improving Physical School Conditions: Investing in improving deteriorating physical school conditions can contribute to a more supportive and motivating environment for teachers.

Increasing Challenges In The Classroom Due To Large Class Sizes, Lack Of Support, And Resources Required To Address Diversity Of Intensive Needs

Hiring has not been able to keep up with the pace of teachers leaving the classroom. This has unfortunately led to a higher number of teachers quitting in the middle of the school year.

While the pandemic may be in our rearview, the after-effects of a global calamity require major shifts in learning to address students with intensive needs. Children with developmental delays were the hardest hit

Retention practices in place:

Schools are offering teachers adaptable and self-directed professional development opportunities that are closely aligned with their job requirements. Teachers are developing themselves to be able to address classroom challenges, like large class sizes and diverse student needs.

Where we see things heading:

  • Innovation And Flexibility And Collaboration: There is no silver bullet but the increasing teacher demand means that school systems will need to work together with teacher training programs and practicing teachers to consider effective ways of attracting and retaining quality teacher professionals. 
  • Focus on Becoming Facilitators of Learning: A shift from traditional teaching methods to becoming facilitators of learning enriched the classroom experience and teacher-student interactions.
  • More Emphasis on Addressing Challenges in the Classroom: With larger class sizes and diverse intensive needs, schools must prioritize diverse recruitment, intervention specialists, SEN teachers, and counselors to provide adequate support. Addressing diverse students’ needs helps to promote an inclusive school culture environment.

Competition in the International Schools Market

As the demand for international education grows and global mobility becomes more accessible, the landscape of international schools has become increasingly competitive. 

International schools are becoming more competitive by offering attractive comprehensive benefits packages for teaching jobs abroad. Packages can include competitive salaries, housing allowances, healthcare coverage, professional development opportunities, cultural integration support, retirement benefits, family assistance, and travel opportunities. 

Retention practices in place:

To compete with international schools, domestic schools are offering contract extension bonuses and letters of intent to anticipate staff decisions. These are letters that allow teachers to express their intention to continue their employment for the following academic year. Letters of intent provide teachers with a clear understanding of their future roles.

Where we see things heading:

  1. Development Of Domestic Workforce and Grow Your Own Programs: By offering training, mentorship, and advancement opportunities to individuals within the local community, schools can create a pipeline of educators who are attuned to the cultural nuances and specific needs of their region.
  2. Investment In Pathways For Teachers To Develop Into Leaders: Schools might offer tailored training programs that equip teachers with skills to take on leadership roles within the school, such as department heads, curriculum coordinators, or mentors for new teachers. This approach not only enhances job satisfaction and career progression but also enriches the overall educational environment by tapping into the expertise and dedication of experienced educators.

Lack of Professional Development Opportunities

Some teachers feel that their professional development is lacking in opportunities to seek guidance, support, or insights from individuals who are highly knowledgeable and experienced in specific areas relevant to their teaching practice – especially for English learners and students with disabilities, according to a survey by the RAND Corporation. 

Retention practices in place:

Professional development opportunities are ever-evolving. Schools are formalizing professional development and career progression opportunities by introducing fixed progression plans, review meetings, and creating clear career pathways. 

Where we see things heading:

  1. More Structured Approach To Professional Development: This could involve implementing fixed progression plans that guide teachers through a series of skill-building milestones. Regular review meetings might become a norm to assess teachers’ growth and align it with their career trajectory.
  2. School Culture and Leadership: Creating positive school cultures that value trusted relationships, innovation, and fun will lead to lower teacher turnover, as educators feel valued and committed to their profession and colleagues.
  3. Leadership Pathways: Providing clear leadership pathways will encourage professional growth and advancement among teachers.
  4. Increasing Demand and Collaboration: The rise in demand for teachers will require collaborative efforts between school systems and teacher training programs to attract and retain quality educators. Flexibility and innovation in professional learning opportunities will be crucial.

Out of Pocket Spending on Resources For the Classroom

Before the pandemic, over 90% of US teachers spent an average of $500 annually on school supplies, including books and shelves, online program subscriptions and lab equipment, and even snacks, in some low-income districts. Post-pandemic, with inflation, this personal spending is estimated to rise to $820. If out of pocket spending does amount to an average of $820 over the course of the school year, teachers across the country might end up collectively subsidizing schools $3 billion.

While some school districts provide stipends or support, it’s not enough. Many teachers often receive only the basics for their classrooms, and rely on donations and fundraisers to obtain supplies to bridge the resource gap.

Retention practices in place:

Teachers can deduct up to $300 of qualified out of pocket expenses on their taxes. 

Where we see things heading:

  1. Higher Tax Deductibles: The Association of American Educators (AAE) is advocating for tax code updates that would allow teachers to deduct $1,000 for classroom supplies and up to $400 for home internet expenses. 

Key Takeaways

  • Teachers are leaving the profession due to stagnant salaries, pandemic-induced stress and burnout, student behavior issues, classroom challenges, competition from international schools, and a lack of professional development opportunities.
  • Teacher salaries have failed to keep pace with inflation, prompting schools to offer additional benefits to retain teachers.
  • Teacher burnout has increased significantly due to pandemic-related stress, long hours, workload, and student behavior challenges. Schools are implementing support systems and flexibility to combat burnout.
  • Post-lockdown, schools are facing rising student behavior problems. Schools are focusing on social and emotional learning (SEL) to create positive environments.
  • The pace of teacher departures is surpassing hiring efforts, leading schools to provide adaptable professional development opportunities. Collaboration and support for classroom challenges are key strategies.
  • International schools are offering attractive benefits packages, prompting domestic schools to provide incentives like contract extension bonuses and clear career pathways.
  • Some teachers feel professional development lacks guidance and support. Schools are formalizing development programs with structured career pathways and progression plans.
  • Teachers are spending their own money on classroom supplies, and there’s a push for higher tax deductibles to alleviate this financial burden.

How you evolve your teacher retention strategies will shape the future of education

As we celebrate Teach Away’s 20th anniversary, it’s evident that teacher retention strategies have evolved significantly over the past two decades. The shift towards addressing teachers’ needs and concerns is a promising development in the education sector. Innovative solutions, such as formalized professional development, mental health support, and increased flexibility, have emerged to retain educators. 

Looking ahead, it’s clear that fostering supportive environments, investing in teacher well-being, and providing opportunities for professional growth will continue to be the cornerstone of teacher retention. Embracing these evolving practices is essential for creating a sustainable and dedicated teaching workforce, shaping the future of education.

If you’re looking for assistance with teacher recruitment for your teacher retention strategy, be sure to contact us at