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How a Learner-Centered Approach to PD Improves Teacher Retention

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Education is the key to success in life, and teachers make a lasting impact in the lives of their students. ~ Solomon Ortiz

In every school district, there are issues that administrators must face on an ongoing basis. One of the most important, which has the potential to impact every aspect of education, is teacher retention. Are your teachers happy in their jobs? Will they stay with your district – and your students – in the long run?

At Alludo, we work with administrators every day to help them provide relevant professional learning opportunities to teachers, paraeducators, and administrators at every level. We recognize the challenges that are inherent in the issue of teacher recruitment and teacher retention. We believe that using a learner-centered approach is one of the most effective ways to ensure that your teachers feel happy, supported, and committed to their jobs.

Table of Contents

  1. Why School Districts Have a Problem with Teacher Retention
  2. Causes and Effects of the Teacher Shortage
    1. Causes of the Teacher Shortage
    2. Effects of the Teacher Shortage
  3. How Can School Districts Improve Teacher Retention?
    1. Improve Working Environment
    2. Provide Ongoing Support and Mentorship
    3. Prioritize Professional Development
  4. The Learner-Centered Approach to Teacher Professional Development
  5. Alludo’s Take

Why School Districts Have a Problem with Teacher Retention

When people talk about teaching as a profession, they often mention its most rewarding aspects, things like getting students excited about what they learn and seeing improvements in standardized test scores and graduation rates. Those things are wonderful – we agree! But there’s a tendency for some to use the best and most rewarding parts of being a teacher as an excuse to ignore the things that are most difficult.

One of the things that the COVID-19 pandemic has done is to crystallize the issues that face people in many professions, including teaching. A Business Insider article from July of 2021 reported on the growing teacher attrition in the United States and examined some of the reasons.

The article cited an NEA survey reporting that 32% of respondents were considering leaving teaching early because of the pandemic. Another study by Frontline Education found that fully two-thirds of American school districts had a shortage of teachers. The pandemic did not start the shortage, which has been worsening for years, but it did exacerbate it.

Some school districts have begun offering signing bonuses and retention bonuses as a way of convincing teachers to stay on the job but that’s a solution that isn’t sustainable unless your district has deep pockets. We believe there’s a better way.

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Causes and Effects of the Teacher Shortage

What is causing the teacher shortage? As you might expect, there’s no easy answer – and the same is true of the potential effects of the shortage, which could impact the nation’s students for years to come.

Causes of the Teacher Shortage

Let’s start with the causes for teacher attrition. According to an NBC report from 2021, the teacher shortage has been steadily worsening since 2010. As of 2019, the nation needed 100,000 more teachers than it had and the pandemic has made that number larger than it was.

The main reasons for the shortage have to do with teacher dissatisfaction in several areas. The most common reason cited for leaving teaching was low pay, which impacted teachers in two significant ways. The first was that 67% had to take a second job to make ends meet, and the second was that many new teachers entered the profession carrying thousands of dollars in student debt.

Teacher Happiness Report

Economic factors might be the biggest driver of teacher turnover but stress, school climate, and a lack of mentorship and administrative support also play important parts. School districts must take action to ensure that teachers feel supported and valuable, and that includes giving them a voice in professional development.

Effects of the Teacher Shortage

The effects of the teacher shortage are more troubling than the shortage itself. When there aren’t enough teachers in a school district, the results are undeniable:

Effects of the Teacher Shortage

  • Lower teacher/student ratio and less personal attention for students. Larger class sizes add to teachers’ stress and make it more difficult for students who are struggling to get the attention and help they need.
  • Lower scores on standardized tests. A drop in test scores can lead to real trouble for school districts, including issues with accreditation and funding.
  • Less engagement from students. Engaged students are more likely to do well on standardized tests, stay in school longer, and attend college.
  • Negative impact on students’ cognitive development. Students have an easier time grasping new concepts and learning new things when they have the support they need from teachers.
  • Potential negative impact on graduation and college enrollment rates. When there aren’t enough teachers to meet students’ needs, it can lead to lower graduation rates and lower rates of students leaving high school and going to college.
  • Negative impact on students’ future earning potential. Students who don’t do well in school and/or don’t attend college have lower earning potential than students who learn effectively and go on to higher education.

Learner-Centered PD

We believe that both teacher retention and student outcomes can be positively impacted by the adoption of a learner-centered approach to professional development. When teachers are engaged and excited about teaching, their engagement helps students become more engaged. It also increases student comprehension of complex concepts and ideas, and it reduces the likelihood of any student slipping through the cracks because teachers will have the knowledge and tools to help them.

How Can School Districts Improve Teacher Retention?

One of the keys to ending the teacher shortage is figuring out ways for school districts to increase their teacher retention rates. The only way to do that is by making teaching careers desirable by providing the necessary support and mentorship. Here are three ways to address the issue of retention.

Improve Teacher Retention

Improve Working Environment

Many teachers who leave the profession mention issues with their working environment as a factor. Examples of environmental issues include the following:

  • Large class sizes and overcrowding
  • Lack of necessary materials, including books and other classroom supplies
  • Lack of safety, including COVID-related issues

Our survey found that 68% of teachers believed their workload was too heavy. We also asked what would better help teachers have an impact on students and the number one response was a more manageable workload (56%).

Admittedly, it is difficult to reduce class sizes when your district is already experiencing a teacher shortage, but that’s something that may be mitigated by hiring classroom assistants and paraeducators to alleviate the burden on teachers.

Provide Ongoing Support and Mentorship

Teachers at every level require support and mentorship but it’s particularly important for new teachers to receive the support they need. Being certified as a teacher is not enough to give someone the tools they need to connect with students and deliver the best outcomes. 

Support can come from peers and administrators and it’s important to encourage peer mentorship in your school district. When we asked what type of professional development is most effective in our Teacher Happiness Survey, 51% of teachers selected collaboration with a colleague. You also need to consider how and when your administrators support teachers.

Alludo Platform

Prioritize Professional Development

If you want to improve teacher retention, professional development and educational leadership must be a priority and not an afterthought. Teachers who participate in a learner-centered professional development program are more likely to stay in the profession because they are getting the tools they need to excel at their jobs.

We also asked K-12 teachers what would help them have a better impact on students and the #2 response was participating in professional development that matches their skill level (35%).

You’ll need to make sure that teachers in your district meet their state PD goals, but a robust system of professional learning will go above and beyond the minimum requirements to elevate teachers.

The Learner-Centered Approach to Teacher Professional Development

At Alludo, we specialize in creating learner-centered professional development programs for school districts. This approach has been proven to work. Let’s look at the Jurupa Unified School District as an example:

  • Teacher voice & choice. Teachers in the Jurupa USD got the opportunity to create self-directed learning pathways based on what they needed to connect with students and deliver the best outcomes.
  • Gamification. Alludo’s gamified system rewarded the district’s teachers with both encouragement and concrete prizes. By earning badges and awards, teachers learned what they needed and got the rewards they deserved.
  • Ongoing feedback & refinement of PD. Administrators used reports and analytics to slice and dice their PD data and adjust to meet teachers’ needs and improve student outcomes.

As a result of these features, students and teachers are engaging at rates between 70% and 90%!

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Alludo’s Take

Alludo believes that putting teachers and students first leads to success for school districts and administrators. Our approach is unique:

  1. We partner with school districts to understand their PD needs and requirements and to build a system that delivers.
  2. We give teachers input in what they learn and how they learn it, which encourages engagements and excitement about professional learning.
  3. We prioritize student outcomes by providing learning modules that increase teachers’ motivation and give them the specific pedagogical tools they need to improve student learning.
  4. We incentivize teachers to get engaged and stay engaged with gamification that provides excitement and tangible rewards.

Our approach is one that’s proven to work. The school districts who have partnered with us have seen concrete results, including increased teacher and student engagement, higher teacher retention rates, and higher overall satisfaction among teachers. While we can’t help you end your teacher shortage overnight, we can provide you with a professional learning platform that will reduce teacher turnover and improve your chances of attracting new educators to your district.

Put the Learner-Centered Approach to Work in Your District

Adopting a learner-centered approach to professional development is the best way to keep the teacher workforce in your district satisfied and supported and to reduce the chances that they will leave your district or leave the education field for another profession.

Want to reach up to 100% PD in your district? See how Alludo can help make it happen with our free professional development platform trial, including:

  • Hundreds of core topics
  • Asynchronous microlearning activities
  • Timely and specific feedback
  • Analytics that show learning impact
  • Access anytime, anywhere

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