Everyone who remembers his own education remembers teachers, not methods and techniques. The teacher is the heart of the educational system. ~ Sidney Hook
How is your school or district working to retain teachers? The United States has been in a worsening teacher shortage since 2010 and every school district must cope with reduced staff, growing classroom sizes, and all of the issues that arise from teacher attrition.
Teacher turnover is an issue we care deeply about at Alludo. We work with school districts every day to create effective, learner-centered professional development programs that deliver results, helping to reduce teacher turnover rates and improve student outcomes. With that in mind, here are eight ways to reduce high teacher turnover rates in your district.
Table of Contents
- Why is the Turnover Rate for Teachers So High?
- Factors That Drive Teacher Turnover
- What School Districts Can Do to Reduce High Teacher Turnover Rates
- Alludo’s Take
Why is the Turnover Rate for Teachers So High?
The turnover rate for teachers was high even before the COVID-19 pandemic, with 8% of teachers leaving the profession each year. A survey conducted by the EdWeek Research Center revealed that the pandemic has made matters worse. In 2019, 34% of teachers reported that they were somewhat or very likely to leave the profession soon. By 2021, that number had risen to 54%. Given those numbers, it is not surprising that the turnover rate for teachers is high across the board.
Factors That Drive Teacher Turnover
Now, let’s examine five key factors that drive teacher turnover before we reveal some of the ways that school districts can reduce turnover and increase teacher retention.
Poor Working Conditions
Poor working conditions contribute greatly to teacher turnover. According to a 2018 study, teachers who rate working conditions at their schools as satisfactory or better are less likely to leave their jobs than those who gave lower ratings.
Elements that may point to poor working conditions include overcrowding, lack of support, lack of necessary classroom materials, and teacher safety.
Lack of Preparation
In our work with school districts, we have found that a lack of preparation can contribute to teacher turnover. Teachers, especially new teachers, need training in relevant classroom techniques to succeed.
When teachers are adequately prepared, they are less likely to experience frustration in the classroom and more likely to feel supported and fulfilled in their jobs.
Stress is a leading cause of job dissatisfaction in every industry, including teaching. A 2019 study found that when new teachers perceived a gap between classroom demands and classroom resources, they experienced elevated stress and were more likely to leave teaching.
Likewise, a 2020 study in the Journal of School Psychology found a correlation between teacher stress and adverse outcomes for students, teachers, and school districts. It should come as no surprise that reducing teacher stress has the potential to reduce turnover, as well.
When there is a shortage of teachers, there is a correlating rise in teacher workloads. Classroom sizes increase, teachers must work harder to give each student the attention they deserve, and they have more work outside of the classroom as well.
According to a 2021 study in California, elevated workloads and stress were seen as driving teacher turnover and worsening the shortage, making a reduction in workloads essential for every school district.
Our Teacher Happiness survey reported that 68% of teachers believed their workload was too heavy. When asked what would better help teachers have an impact on students, the number one response was a more manageable workload (56%).
Lack of Mentorship and Support
Finally, many teachers suffer from a lack of administrative support and mentorship. Teaching is a rewarding profession and a difficult one. Teachers who don’t get the ongoing support and mentorship they need may feel overwhelmed.
Providing support, including professional development, is essential if school districts want to reduce teacher turnover and end the teacher shortage.
We also asked K-12 teachers what would help them have a better impact on students and the number two response was participating in professional development that matches their skill level (35%).
What School Districts Can Do to Reduce High Teacher Turnover Rates
Now that you understand the factors that drive high teacher turnover rates, let’s review eight things that school districts can do to reduce teacher turnover and improve teacher retention.
#1: Provide Teachers with Ongoing Mentorship and Support
As we saw in the previous section, teachers – especially new teachers – require proper support if they are to excel in the classroom. Peer mentorship offers benefits to both mentors and mentees, and it’s a good way to ensure that teachers have someone to turn to if they encounter difficulties.
When we asked what type of professional development is most effective in our Teacher Happiness Survey, 51% of teachers selected collaboration with a colleague.
The same is true of administrative support in the form of paying teachers what they’re worth and ensuring that their classroom work feels manageable and rewarding. Our survey also found that 41% of teachers were not satisfied with their overall compensation.
We also recommend providing teachers with scheduled collaboration time to interact with their peers and learn from them. When teachers feel supported, they are less likely to become frustrated.
#2: Ensure Teachers Have the Supplies and Tools They Need in the Classroom
An issue related to support is ensuring that teachers have the things they need to engage students in the classroom. The first recommendation is making sure that they have necessary supplies and materials, including the books, paper, writing utensils, art supplies, and lab equipment necessary to teach their students.
Administrators need to be aware that situations change and as they do, teachers’ needs change as well. You may think you know what your teachers need but we suggest surveying your teachers before the end of each school year to learn what they need and how you can adjust your budget for the coming school year to better support them.
Classroom tools may include equipment as well as pedagogy and professional development. When teachers have the opportunity to learn new teaching techniques they become effective teachers, bringing those techniques back to the classroom and benefiting everyone.
#3: Make Improving Student Outcomes a Priority
Improving student outcomes is a goal for every teacher and that makes student outcomes the one area where district and administrative support can have the biggest impact. We know from research that when teachers are supported, student outcomes improve:
- Students are more engaged in learning and better able to learn new concepts and ideas
- Student scores on standardized tests improve
- Teachers give students more support both academically and emotionally
The key takeaway here is that when teachers know that student outcomes are important to the district, they are more likely to stay in their jobs.
#4: Help Prepare New Teachers and New Hires for Their Time with Students
We have already talked about how important it is to prepare new teachers and new hires for their time in the classroom. Teachers need to know what to expect and they need support and relevant preparation if they are to succeed.
School districts can prioritize preparation with well-designed intake that includes mentorship and an immediate introduction to professional development, particularly professional development that gives teachers a choice and a voice in what they learn.
Alludo has addressed the need for new teacher training and induction with custom-designed PD experiences. We have found that allowing new hires to move through onboarding at their own pace has helped teachers learn about their new district and their job responsibilities before they ever set foot in the classroom.
#5: Create a Meaningful and Engaging System of Professional Development
Professional development must go beyond what’s required to meet state and district benchmarks by giving teachers concrete tools they can use in the classroom. Teacher professional development has the most impact when teachers learn in a collaborative setting with their peers.
Another thing that affects the impact of professional learning is giving teachers the option to learn specific teaching techniques. Research shows that teachers who are able to study new teaching methods are likely to bring those methods back to the classroom, where they can have a significant impact on student outcomes.
#6: Give Teachers a Voice and a Choice in What They Learn
Which option is better: dictating which courses teachers must complete for professional development or giving them the choice of what to learn? If you guessed B, then you’re already on the path to more engaging professional development and reduced turnover.
Alludo’s learner-centered approach leads to greater teacher engagement, more participation in professional learning, and improved student outcomes. Teachers know what they need and if you give it to them, you’ll see the results.
#7: Monitor Professional Development Results and Adjust as Needed
It takes time to develop the right system of professional development for your district. Even if you focus on a learner-centered approach, you may still need to tweak your system based on the results you see.
One of the hallmarks of Alludo’s approach is that we provide an array of metrics for school districts and administrators to slice and dice. By reviewing your numbers and results, you’ll be able to eliminate what isn’t working and focus on what is.
#8: Reward Teachers for Completing Professional Development
Gamified learning is undeniably effective which is why we love it and use it in the professional development programs we design. By giving teachers digital badges to award their progress, we encourage participation and engagement.
We also asked teachers if they were compensated for their professional development. Thirty-two percent said they were not compensated in any way.
When teachers are rewarded for their efforts (not only talking about teacher salary), they are more likely to get engaged and stay engaged. Teacher engagement and student engagement are inextricably linked, which means that rewarding teachers rewards students, too.
At Alludo, we partner with school districts across the country to help them deliver effective, engaging learning experiences for all faculty and staff. These are the steps we recommend to improve your professional development program and increase teacher retention:
- Let teachers tell you what they want from professional development, both with initial input on the specific pedagogies and techniques that would be most helpful to them and general feedback as you roll out your system.
- Use gamification to foster healthy competition and keep teachers engaged and excited about what they’re learning – and what it can do for their students.
- Gather ongoing feedback from teachers to eliminate what’s not working in professional development and focus on the things that are making teachers feel supported and excited about their jobs.
- Monitor your results to identify problem areas and ensure that your district’s professional development is delivering the results you expect.
We can help you design an online/asynchronous program that incorporates your state requirements and district goals while also giving teachers the support and encouragement they need to love their jobs.
Are You Ready to Decrease Teacher Turnover Rates?
If teacher turnover is a struggle in your district, you now have the tools you need to improve your teacher retention rates and give your district’s students the support they need – in school and in life.
Experience personalized learning for all levels of educators with a free trial of Alludo’s professional development platform. You’ll enjoy:
- Hundreds of core topics
- Asynchronous microlearning activities
- Timely and specific feedback
- Analytics that show learning impact
- Access anytime, anywhere