teacher retention

How to retain great teachers: Start with leadership opportunities

An assistant superintendent shares his district’s multi-layer approach to developing and empowering teachers at the classroom, building, and district levels

Finding and retaining effective teachers is one of the surest ways to improve student outcomes, according to research published in the Elementary School Journal and the Journal of Personnel Evaluation in Education. But tight budgets take obvious solutions, like increased compensation packages and aggressive recruitment campaigns, off the table. So what options remain that won’t break the district budget?

At Colonial (DE) School District, we’ve focused on offering our most effective teachers clear, cost-effective opportunities for various leadership roles and paths for advancement.

We recognize that not all great teachers want to become administrators. They may, however, make great leaders in other roles. Providing leadership opportunities and options for these educators allows us to build a leadership pipeline to meet a variety of needs.

Continuous recruiting
For Colonial as for other districts, teacher turnover is a continual challenge. Whether we lose them to other districts, other professions, or personal reasons, teachers are going to depart for reasons outside the best administrator’s control. Our solution is simple: Always be recruiting.

But recruiting and hiring new teachers is only part of the solution. Retention is a key element. The more teachers we can retain year over year, the fewer we need to recruit.

3 forms of retention through leadership opportunities
Research suggests that one low-cost strategy for retaining the most effective teachers is putting teachers in charge of something they’re passionate about and that holds a level of importance. Here are three ways we do this in Colonial:

1. Create instructional coach positions at the school and district level.
We have coaches at both the district level and school level who play an important role in staff development. Some incredible instructional coaches have moved into administrative roles. Others have told me, “I have no desire to be an administrator. I love my work as an instructional coach because I get to connect with teachers and help grow and support the staff.”

This dual-track approach allows teachers who are interested in developing their capacity to take on a leadership role without becoming an administrator. It also lets us offer a teacher who wants to take an administrative position an immediate leadership role, even if the administrative position they are seeking isn’t available. Together we set to work developing those skills and preparing the teacher for the position, rather than losing them to another district that has an immediate opening.

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