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January 2019

Ask A REL Question:

What has been effective at the state or local level to improve the rates of teacher retention?


Thank you for the question you submitted to our REL Reference Desk regarding improving teacher retention rates. We have prepared the following memo with research references to help answer your question. For each reference, we provide an abstract, excerpt, or summary written by the study’s author or publisher. The references are selected from the most commonly used research resources and may not be comprehensive. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. Other relevant studies may exist. We have not evaluated the quality of these references, but provide them for your information only.

Research References

  1. Boyd, D., Grossman, P., Ing, M., Lankford, H., Loeb, S., & Wyckoff, J. (2011). The influence of school administrators on teacher retention decisions. American Educational Research Journal, 48(2),303–333.
    From the abstract: “This article explores the relationship between school contextual factors and teacher retention decisions in New York City. The methodological approach separates the effects of teacher characteristics from school characteristics by modeling the relationship between the assessments of school contextual factors by one set of teachers and the turnover decisions by other teachers in the same school. We find that teachers' perceptions of the school administration has by far the greatest influence on teacher retention decisions. This effect of administration is consistent for first-year teachers and the full sample of teachers and is confirmed by a survey of teachers who have recently left teaching.”
  2. Glennie, E.J., Mason, M., & Edmunds, J.A. (2016). Retention and satisfaction of novice teachers: Lessons from a school reform model. Journal of Education and Training Studies, 4(4), 244–258.
    From the abstract: “In many countries, novice teachers, or those with fewer than four years of experience, have a higher turnover rate than do more experienced teachers. Using teacher employment data, we examine whether schools in an American whole-school reform model are better able to retain novice teachers. Using survey data, we investigate whether novice teachers in a particular school reform model are more satisfied with school leadership than their peers in traditional high schools. In this reform model, early college high schools, high schools are located on college campuses and students have the opportunity to earn an associate's degree or two years of credit in the state university system. This model emphasizes a shared mission and shared leadership. We find that early colleges had a higher turnover rate than their neighbor schools, and a higher percentage of early college teachers were novices. However, these novice teachers were not more likely to leave than novice teachers in traditional schools were. Early college novice teachers received more personalized support and were more satisfied with school leadership than their peers in traditional high schools. Under certain conditions, schools can have higher retention rates for novice teachers.”
  3. Gulosino, C., Franceschini, L., & Hardman, P. (2016). The influence of balance within the competing values framework and school academic success on teacher retention. Journal of Organizational and Educational Leadership, 2(1), Article 3, 1-32.
    From the abstract: “The primary aim of this study is to use the survey items from the TELL Tennessee Survey (2013) using the Competing Values Framework (CVF) (Quinn and Rohrbaugh's model of organizational effectiveness) to determine whether teachers' observations about a set of topically organized school climate dimensions and school performance levels are associated with their immediate professional plans. Specifically, the study sets out to answer three research questions: (1) Does teacher retention differ for schools with balanced and unbalanced CVF profiles? (2) Does teacher retention differ for schools in different achievement groups (priority, norm and performance)? and (3) Does teacher retention a function of achievement groups and CVF profiles after controlling for school poverty? Knowing the perspectives of teachers with regards to teaching and learning condition and the support and environment within their school can help policymakers and practitioners understand what it will take to improve. While federal and state accountability mandates are clear about student performance results that schools are expected to achieve, they often do not provide the schools with much guidance in terms of how to accomplish these objectives. In this paper, the authors describe the competing values framework (CVF) in more detail, followed by the data and methodological approach. They then present the results and conclude with a discussion of the implications and findings.”
  4. Holmes, B., Parker, D., & Gibson, J. (2019). Rethinking teacher retention in hard-to-staff schools. Contemporary Issues in Education Research, 12(1), 27–33.
    From the abstract: “National, state, and local educational agencies identify teacher retention as an issue of continuous importance and concern. This report addresses the issue of teacher retention through the lens of administrative effectiveness and involvement, as well as teachers' intrinsic motivations. Relevant findings include structural framing of the educational environment, student behaviors, school district demands for improvement, and teacher perspectives on administrative support. The report iterates that teacher retention does not have a one-size-fits-all solution, and that each school division and individual school must work purposefully to devise plans to retain its most effective teachers.”
  5. Hughes, A.L., Matt, J.J., & O’Reilly, F.L. (2015). Principal support is imperative to the retention of teachers in hard-to-staff schools. Journal of Education and Training Studies, 3(1), 129–134.
    From the abstract: “Teacher retention is an ongoing problem in hard-to-staff schools. This research examined the relationship between principal support and retention of teachers in hard-to-staff schools. The purpose of this study was to, (a) to determine the relationship between teacher retention and principal support, (b) to examine the perception of support between teachers and principals and how these perceptions affect teacher retention in hard-to-staff schools, and (c) to discover if there is a correlation between the principal's supports and teacher retention. The participants were both administrators and teachers who are currently employed. A non-experimental correlational design was used in which principals and teachers in hard-to-staff schools were surveyed regarding the role of principal supports in the retention of teachers. Findings in this study posited, personal growth and the ability to receive support from administrators regarding emotional, environmental and instructional support had an impact on a teacher's decision to stay or leave in hard-to-staff schools. Participant teachers provided insight as to which forms of support they valued most from their principals. The recommendations guide administrators working in hard-to-staff schools to reduce teacher attrition and are also intended to encourage leaders to look more closely at their programs and their own styles of leadership and support. Specific recommendations are made for administrators, institutions, and teachers.”
  6. Watson, J.M. (2018). Job embeddedness may hold the key to the retention of novice talent in schools. Educational Leadership and Administration: Teaching and Program Development, 29(1), 26–43.
    From the abstract: “Teacher retention has been studied for decades, yet it has recently assumed renewed significance due to current teacher shortages. This study was designed to determine whether teachers' job embeddedness (JE) is related to turnover. JE is found in organizational literature (Mitchell, Holtom, Lee, Sablynski, & Erez, 2001) and has been a robust predictor of retention across diverse groups of employees (Mallol, Holtom, & Lee, 2007) as well as among various countries and cultures (Lee, Burch, & Mitchell, 2014). For this study, we surveyed over 143 teachers with less than five years of experience in three school districts in Central California, and we identified a correlation between retention and embeddedness through the use of multivariate analysis of variance. The results indicate that JE is indeed related to novice teacher retention.”

Additional Organizations to Consult

  • Center on Great Teachers and Leaders:
    From the website: “The Center on Great Teachers and Leaders (GTL Center) is dedicated to supporting state education leaders in their efforts to grow, respect, and retain great teachers and leaders for all students.”


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Searched Databases and Resources.

  • ERIC
  • Academic Databases (e.g., EBSCO databases, JSTOR database, ProQuest, Google Scholar)
  • Commercial search engines (e.g., Google)
  • Institute of Education Sciences Resources

Reference Search and Selection Criteria. The following factors are considered when selecting references:

  • Date of Publication: Priority is given to references published in the past 10 years.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: ERIC, other academic databases, Institute of Education Sciences Resources, and other resources including general internet searches.
  • Methodology: Priority is given to the most rigorous study types, such as randomized controlled trials and quasi-experimental designs, as well as to correlational designs, descriptive analyses, mixed methods analyses and literature reviews. Other considerations include the target population and sample, including their relevance to the question, generalizability, and general quality.

REL Mid-Atlantic serves the education needs of Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

This Ask A REL was prepared under Contract ED-IES-17-C-0006 by Regional Educational Laboratory Mid-Atlantic administered by Mathematica Policy Research. The content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.