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Study Provides a Clear Picture of Alaska's Educator Turnover Challenge

January 8, 2020

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A study on educator turnover in Alaska finds that 22 percent of teachers and 25 percent of principals leave their schools and their roles each year. Among those educators who turn over, more than half leave the state or their profession. To address this problem, the findings suggest policymakers may want to focus on increasing the supply of homegrown educators, as those who were prepared in Alaska were more likely to stay at their school.

"Policymakers and school district and university leaders have been hungry for an up-to-date assessment of the magnitude of turnover and a better understanding of the relationship of different factors to turnover in Alaska," says Dr. Hella Bel Hadj Amor, coauthor of the report. Conducted by Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Northwest, the study examines trends in educator movement, and the relationships of those trends to educator and school characteristics, during a six-year period (2012/13 to 2017/18) in Alaska.

Schools and districts across the country are struggling to recruit and retain teachers and administrators—a challenge that is associated with negative student outcomes. Alaska's efforts are complicated by the state's unique characteristics, including geographic remoteness. The study found that 36 percent of teachers and 38 percent of principals working in a rural-remote school did not return to their school the following year, compared to 19 percent for both teachers and principals working in an urban school. Moreover, teachers and principals who were prepared outside Alaska had higher turnover rates than educators who were prepared in Alaska, and those rates were even higher in remote and rural schools.

The report also provides a summary of successful retention strategies used by eight school districts from across the state. For example, one district leader emphasized the need to continuously recruit for retention. "In any district, hiring is the most important thing. To keep teachers, always make a good hire instead of a fast hire. If you go through a pool of candidates and nobody jumps out, you're better off taking a long-term sub. Some places don't do that because they are desperate to hire."

The study was requested by members of the Alaska State Policy Research Alliance, a REL Northwest partnership. The alliance brings together policymakers and education stakeholders, including the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development, the Alaska Council of School Administrators, and the University of Alaska, to use research and evidence to inform state and local education policy. "We are working with alliance members to use these findings to inform recruitment and retention strategies across the state," explains Bel Hadj Amor.

Educator Retention and Turnover Under the Midnight Sun
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