In recent years, schools have been hiring significantly more teachers than in the past. However, there is still a shortage of educators throughout school districts across the nation. How can a teaching population that has increased at more than three times the rate of its student population still appear depleted?
One of the greatest concerns in education today is not the ability to obtain teachers, but the ability to keep them. So, the question for boards and superintendents is, what is your district’s retention rate? And, is your district doing enough to retain and grow effective teachers?
Teacher Hiring is Up
The number of teachers in the United States has increased since 1989. Specifically, schools have been hiring more teachers in Math, Science, Reading, Special Education, and English as a Second Language. Overall increase in population created a need to reduce classroom size due to overcrowding, as well as fill achievement and equity gaps in teaching. Schools are also hiring more teachers of various racial backgrounds to increase diversity in schools.
Retention: The Real Problem
Despite this influx of new teachers, Professor Richard Ingersoll of the University of Pennsylvania states that 44% leave the occupation within the first five years and 10% leave in year one. Today, an average teacher has just 1-3 years of classroom experience compared to an average of 15 years of experience just 30 years ago. In 2015-16, Ingersoll found that less than half of new teachers were over 29 years of age and just 19% were older than 40.
Inevitably, this has led to an increase in the number of under-qualified teachers in schools. A recent survey of 31 participating states found that 82,000 teachers are under-qualified, and 5,000 positions remain unfilled. These issues are exacerbated in districts with low-income and high-minority populations. According to Ingersoll, low-income students, both rural and urban, are more likely to be taught by an under-qualified teacher than a similar student in an affluent area. His studies also show that despite the significant increase in nonwhite public school teachers, attrition is higher for minority teachers.
The cause of teacher retention struggles is far from one-dimensional. It sprouts from a variety of factors including inadequate preparation, a lack of mentoring or effective mentoring, pressures of test-based accountability, low salaries, and poor teaching conditions. Considering these factors, it comes as no surprise that teachers have become as displeased, discouraged and overwhelmed as ever before. According to the MetLife Survey of American Teachers, teacher job satisfaction has dropped 15% over the past decade and the percentage of teachers who say they are likely to leave the profession has increased by 12%.
Rising Costs of Losing Teachers
Hiring new teachers is not a minor expense for many schools. Investments in professional development and curriculum improvements are costly necessities associated with this process. Ingersoll estimates that replacing former teachers costs between $10,000 per teacher for small and rural districts and $20,000 per teacher for urban districts. These investments do not often pay their full dividend due to the rising number of first- and second-year teachers leaving the field.
Monetary losses are not the only costs associated with attrition. Student achievement also takes a significant hit within schools that struggle to retain teachers. A recent study conducted by the University of the Michigan’s Matthew Ronfeldt, Stanford University’s Susanna Loeb, and the University of Virginia’s Jim Wyckoff shows that high teacher turnover is correlated to low test scores within schools. In fact, an increase in teacher turnover by just 1% resulted in lower math scores by 2%. Test scores in all subjects were 6-10% lower in schools with high turnover rates.
The most effective answer to the teacher retention issue seems to lie in increasing support for new teachers. This includes teacher development, mentoring, and adequate administrative support. While many districts employ mentoring programs, many are not as effective as they could be. However, programs in which new teachers are able to receive one-on-one guided counsel from more experienced personnel have proven to increase teacher retention and provide teachers with a greater perception of success within the profession. A study of California schools’ that worked to retain teachers found that “high quality induction and mentoring programs reduced attrition by 26% in just two years.” Multiple studies show that beginning teachers who participate in mentoring and induction activities are less likely to change schools and less likely leave the occupation within the first year.
So, with many school districts already having professional development and mentoring programs in place, why is overall teacher retention still so low? Despite their efforts to create a positive and supportive growth environment for new teachers, many educational leaders are already overwhelmed with a plethora of responsibilities. Additionally, many of these expectations are met with deficiencies in both time and resources.
One viable way to increase support for new teachers may be to include a third-party instructional coach. This practice allows teachers to receive the instruction they need to develop early in their careers, at their specific pace and at their convenience, while relieving much of the pressure from administrators and experienced teachers. This also allows administrators to receive targeted feedback from one common source as opposed to receiving requests from numerous angles. This will likely increase their ability to effectively address each teacher’s needs. Instructional coaches, both in-person and virtual, are able to provide objective and targeted one-on-one assistance within a supportive environment and with a flexible schedule. This method of teacher development, particularly a virtual approach, is growing rapidly and will likely shift the plummeting trend of teacher retention in the coming years.
Again, the question for boards and superintendents is, what is your district’s retention rate? And, is your district doing enough to retain and grow effective teachers?
For more information about in-person or virtual instructional coaching services, please visit https://newteachersupport.com and contact us today.
By Veronica Gerald
Founder & CEO
New Teacher Support Center
Fuller, B., Waite, A., & Irribarra, D. T. (2016). Explaining Teacher Turnover: School Cohesion and Intrinsic Motivation in Los Angeles. American Journal of Education, 122(4), 537–567. doi: 10.1086/687272
Ingersoll, R. M. (2001). Teacher Turnover and Teacher Shortages: An Organizational Analysis. American Educational Research Journal, 38(3), 499–534. doi: 10.3102/00028312038003499
Love, A. R. (2010). Collaborating for Student Success: Perspectives from the MetLife Survey of the American Teacher. National Civic Review, 99(2), 10–14. doi: 10.1002/ncr.20012
Ronfeldt, M., Loeb, S., & Wyckoff, J. (2013). How Teacher Turnover Harms Student Achievement. American Educational Research Journal, 50(1), 4–36. doi: 10.3102/0002831212463813
Smith, T. M., & Ingersoll, R. M. (2004). What Are the Effects of Induction and Mentoring on Beginning Teacher Turnover? Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 26(3), 681–714. doi: 10.3102/01623737026003681