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Resources for Local and State Education Leaders to Retain and Grow Excellent Teachers

Appalachia | May 19, 2022

Retaining teachers is as important as preparing and recruiting them

Supporting our teachers has never been more crucial. Pandemic-related strains, burnout, and soaring costs of living have led to increased resignations and retirement among teachers, despite state efforts to raise pay. Results from the 2022 Merrimack College Teacher Survey of K–12 educators reveal that only 12 percent of teachers were "very satisfied" with their jobs and more than 40 percent were "very or fairly likely" to leave the profession by 2024. This likelihood was even higher for women teachers, Black teachers, teachers in Southern states, and teachers with three to nine years of experience. The profession has arguably reached crisis levels.

We are well aware of the need to prepare and recruit qualified and diverse teachers who reflect the cultures and identities of the students they support. But just as important is keeping the qualified and diverse teachers we already have. Whereas we can only presume the quality and success of teachers we prepare and recruit, we know a lot about the great teachers we currently employ. It is therefore sensible and advantageous to ensure their well-being, satisfaction, and continued growth so that they keep teaching.

The Regional Educational Laboratories (RELs) and Comprehensive Centers have been actively partnering with educators and policymakers across the nation to find effective ways to support and retain educators. This blog post shares some of the strategies and resources resulting from these efforts.

Local education leaders can promote teacher well-being

What is teacher well-being?

A REL Pacific video defines teacher well-being as a positive attitude toward teaching that stems from teachers:

  • having encouraging, supportive relationships with colleagues and students;
  • believing in their ability to teach effectively; and
  • perceiving that their personal and professional needs and expectations are being met.

Teaching is stressful in any context, let alone during a pandemic. The pandemic has exacerbated strains on schools that continue to contribute to teacher turnover. This factor may seem beyond our control, but one area local education leaders can directly influence is teacher well-being. How can leaders help teachers who are experiencing elevated levels of stress and anxiety?

Local education leaders can access many resources with tips and strategies for creating healthy and supportive environments for teachers.

State education leaders can consider long-term solutions

While creating supportive environments for teachers is important, so too is finding long-term solutions to retain excellent teachers. It takes more than implementing local strategies to ensure healthy working conditions and meaningful growth for teachers. How can leaders at the state level help to create a strong, equitable, and sustainable K–12 teacher workforce?

Spotlight on teacher leadership

Cultivating great teacher leaders can be a powerful retention strategy. Get tips and resources on implementing teacher leadership programs from the Comprehensive Center Network.

At the state level, leaders can prioritize systemic improvements such as strengthening talent management systems and providing teacher leadership programs.

  • A guide by the Comprehensive Center Network outlines strategies for developing components of a talent management system, including recommendations for retaining teachers and extending the influence of excellent teachers on their peers.
  • A REL Northwest infographic includes nine strategies for effectively recruiting, hiring, and retaining teachers who reflect the diversity of the student populations they teach.
  • A REL Northeast and Islands study examined how teacher participation in mentoring programs in a large urban district was associated with retention of a diverse teacher workforce.
  • A toolkit by the Comprehensive Center Network presents lessons learned and offers tools to streamline teacher retention strategies.

The RELs can provide technical support for improving teacher retention

The RELs partner with local and state education leaders and policymakers to help improve their education systems through the use of data and research. Visit the Teacher Persistence topic page to learn more about REL program tools, data analysis, and methods that states, districts, and preparation programs can use to inform and improve teacher retention.


Charles Harding

Connect with REL Appalachia