Teacher retention is critical to school quality

When Reynoldsburg teachers went on strike, the issue of teacher retention came to the forefront of discussion. It was reported that almost 1 in 5 teachers had left the district. A rate of turnover far exceeding other districts in the area.

An EdWeek article discussing research on the issue of retention:

The panelists also stressed that teacher shortages are not a recruitment issue so much as a retention issue, as Ingersoll has demonstrated in his oft-cited studies on teacher-retention rates. Ingersoll's research finds that 45 percent of turnover occurs in only 25 percent of schools.
"We have the wrong diagnosis and the wrong prescription ... It's not that we produce too few [teachers,] it's that we lose too many," Ingersoll said.

He emphasized that any solution to school understaffing needs to focus not on making teaching more attractive to potential teachers but on retaining teachers once they enter the workforce. I said that the way to fix the problem "is to improve the quality of teachers and teaching, and the way to do that is to improve the quality of the teaching job."

That starts with administration.

"The key factor that matters," said Ladd, "is school leadership," particularly "transformational leadership" that focuses on more than simply instructional issues.

McWalters agreed, suggesting that leaders create environments where teachers can better collaborate with each and have more power in decision-making processes.

The variables mentioned for creating an environment conducive for retaining top talent seem obvious, but are also clearly lacking in Reynoldsburg. As evidence, even now that a contentious strike is over, the District led by first year Superintendent Tina Thomas Manning continues to disrespect its teaching force and act unilaterally

“Despite good-faith efforts to resolve this issue, the district decided to act unilaterally once again,” Kim Cooper, co-president of the Reynoldsburg Education Association, said in a statement on the union’s Facebook page yesterday.

“The district told us on Friday that they would not be able to make any decisions on a plan to address the missing pay until Monday,” Cooper said. “In good faith, we decided to give them that time to come up with a proposal. Instead, like so many times before, the district decided to act on its own and do whatever it wanted.”

When researchers examined the reasons for teaching staff turnover, the found the following:

The top four reasons were all primary reasons that led to the strike in Reynoldsburg, yet instead of addressing these issues the district instead sought to divide teachers using a merit pay system that has repeatedly been demonstrated to not work, and to further the insult, eliminate health benefits.

This battle with corporate reformers have been going on for a long time now, yet all the evidence continues to point away from their prescribes "solutions". There are now quick fixes to improving educational quality. It requires professional teachers, with manageable class sizes, ample preparation time and collaboration with colleagues, resourced with modern tools and supported by school management that is constantly open to meaningful dialogue. None of this is sexy, it's hard work, sometimes costly - but if you truly are interested in improving educational quality for all students this is where you must first look.

If you address the problems of teacher retention you are directly addressing school quality.