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REL Midwest study explores teacher supports to promote teacher retention

Study explores supports to promote teacher retention

By Mia Mamone
September 20, 2021

Statewide teacher shortages are hindering Michigan’s efforts to ensure that all students have equitable access to qualified teachers. Increasing teacher retention through the use of policies, practices, or programs that support teachers may help alleviate shortages. Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest, in partnership with the Michigan Department of Education and the Midwest Alliance to Improve Teacher Preparation, conducted a study to identify teacher supports at the local level associated with teacher retention.

>> Read and download the full report and companion infographic.

About the study

Alleviating teacher shortages is one of the Michigan Department of Education’s top priorities and goals. One key strategy is to identify and promote teacher supports—policies, practices, and programs—that school districts and charter schools (known as public school academies in Michigan) can use to increase teacher retention. This study helps to inform these efforts by examining which teacher supports are associated with teacher retention.

The study looked at 30 teacher supports representing four broad categories: supports for new teachers, compensation and benefits, evaluation, and professional development. To examine these supports, researchers analyzed responses from a fall 2020 survey of Michigan public school teachers who had taught at the same district or public school academy for three to five years. The survey asked respondents about the teacher supports available to them and their perceptions of those supports. The study team then correlated the survey responses with teacher retention at each district or public school academy from 2013/14 to 2018/19. These statistical procedures controlled for other teacher and local agency factors.

What did the study find?

Key findings include the following:

  • Local education agencies (traditional school districts and public school academies) in Michigan had a median annual teacher retention rate of 88.6 percent for the overall study period. From 2013/14 to 2018/19, most of Michigan’s local education agencies (75 percent of 788 agencies) experienced average retention rates that were higher than 80 percent. However, when broken down by year, average retention rates for local education agencies ranged widely, from 33.3 percent to 100 percent.
  • Teachers who responded to the survey most frequently reported the availability of supports related to the local teacher evaluation system, such as conducting formal observations or incorporating teachers’ goals into the evaluation. Few teachers reported supports involving financial benefits—such as housing or mortgage assistance, or financial incentives for teachers in high-need subjects or schools—other than annual salary increases.
  • The supports associated with higher teacher retention in traditional school districts were not the same as those associated with higher teacher retention in public school academies.
    • In traditional school districts, supports associated with higher teacher retention included mentoring programs, school orientations for new teachers, the encouragement of regular communication between new teachers and school leaders, and annual salary increases.
    • In public school academies, supports associated with higher teacher retention included sufficient instructional resources, organized teacher professional development, mentoring programs, and the incorporation of teachers’ personal goals into teacher evaluations.
  • In districts and public school academies serving large percentages of students from economically disadvantaged households, allowing teachers the opportunity to incorporate personal goals into their evaluations and providing annual salary increases were associated with teacher retention.

These findings should be considered in the context of certain study limitations. Because of its correlational design, the study cannot identify specific supports that cause or lead to higher teacher retention, only those associated with higher retention. In addition, the survey had a low response rate (12 percent), due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the findings should not be viewed as representative of all local education agencies in Michigan or of all teachers with three to five years of experience in the same local education agency. See the report for more information.

What can we take away from the findings?

The study’s findings can help the Michigan Department of Education prioritize supports as it develops a suite of tools, resources, and technical assistance services for local education agencies to improve teacher retention. The findings also can help local education leaders prioritize which teacher supports merit further investment and investigation. Educators may want to prioritize the following:

  • Supports specifically for new teachers: Often referred to as induction supports, these actions include providing orientations to acquaint new teachers with the school, assigning mentors to new teachers, helping new teachers feel welcomed and valued, and offering opportunities for new teachers to meet other faculty and administrators and to have regular and supportive communication with school leaders.
  • Adjustments to teacher evaluation systems to provide opportunities for teachers to incorporate their goals into their evaluations: Michigan law requires that teachers develop personalized goals based on their annual performance evaluation. To support this process, education leaders can provide guidance and resources to help teachers set personal goals as well as base ratings in part on teachers’ progress toward those goals.
  • For public school academies, teacher professional development and instructional resources: The study found that teachers at public school academies were more likely to remain in their positions when offered workshops and training sessions, as well as release time to attend professional development. Public school academies where teachers perceived instructional resources as adequate also had higher retention rates.

Related resources

To learn more about the study and its findings, read the full report. A one-page snapshot, four-page brief, and infographic are also available. For more information about REL Midwest’s work to support the teacher pipeline, see the following related resources:

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Author information

Mia Mamone Staff Picture

Mia Mamone

Communications Assistant | REL Midwest


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