Imagine if half of all new doctors—including many likely to become leaders in the medical field—left the profession in their first five years. It would not be a pretty picture. Well, almost half of all new teachers leave the profession within their first five years on the job. Half!
That’s like continuing to fill a bucket with a hole in it. Districts across the nation are struggling to figure out how to stop the leak—and hold onto great teachers. Maybe we can all learn something from a new Center for Reinventing Public Education report. It highlights examples of how nonprofits that manage clusters of public charter schools work to get the right teachers into the right schools—and then give them the tools they need to develop and succeed.
These nonprofits are called Charter Management Organizations or CMOs, and, as this new report shows, they focus on setting goals and strategies for recruiting, training and retaining their teachers—before the hiring process even begins.
Here are some of the promising practices analyzed in this report, which can be applied to any school. The report confirms some of what we know to be true and provides several clear examples of ideas to focus on.
1) Schools should focus more on recruiting and hiring for fit. Schools need to know their mission and culture, and hire the people who most closely align with these ideals. Successful CMOs focused their recruitment efforts on identifying particular training programs they believed produced teachers with the attitudes, skills and knowledge they wanted. Even if a principal is not able to make his or her own hiring decisions, it’s important to help new staffers understand the culture and expectations in the school.
2) Teachers need intensive and ongoing socialization on the job. This does not simply mean more professional development opportunities. It means constantly reminding teachers and other staff about the school’s goals and mission, and providing consistent feedback—not just through an annual principal observation.
3) Align pay and career advancement with the school’s goals. In many cases, CMOs studied for the report offered exceptional teachers the opportunity to work as mentors or coaches. This reward system doesn’t simply look at how well a teacher’s students performed on tests. It examines other factors, including how well a teacher motivates their students and fits into the overall culture at a school.
Teachers deserve a clear understanding of the culture they are walking into on day one. They want to know the school is a good fit for them. They also deserve to be told how they are performing and to be provided with meaningful feedback to help them improve. Teachers deserve a system that rewards them for advancing the goals of their school.
These all sound like simple tasks, but today’s teacher recruiting and retention strategies don’t always come back to a school’s culture or central mission. That means teachers get placed in school environments that aren't necessarily right for them, often resulting in amazing teachers choosing to leave the profession because they don’t feel supported. This is bad for our children.
We must make it our business to ensure teachers have the supports and tools they need to succeed in the classroom. And we must listen to teachers to ensure we know what they need.
For those of you who work in education, what other methods have worked for you when trying to match the right teacher with the right school?