Effective professional development programs not only support teachers as they grow in their careers, but can improve district-level teacher retention.
One of the biggest challenges facing today’s district leaders is the turnover rate among teachers — whether they’re retiring or leaving the profession completely. In fact, studies show that as many as 260,000 teachers leave the profession annually in the U.S. (and most for reasons other than retirement). An equal number of teachers leave their current positions for schools that can offer more competitive salaries and benefits, or more collaborative and supportive teaching and learning environments. In total, about 16 percent of teachers will make the jump to either a new teaching job or a new profession each year — a rate that’s even higher in communities with greater need.
As a result, schools are left understaffed, starting the year with substitute teachers filling in gaps or with under-qualified teachers teaching students. It’s up to district leaders and administrators to work to improve teacher retention — an ambitious task made achievable by professional development programs that offer teachers the tools they need to succeed.
As in any industry, employees are happier and more inclined to stay and grow in their positions if they have tools and training to succeed and feel supported by upper management. One of the biggest ways that district leaders can help ensure teachers feel supported is by offering opportunities to grow and advance through PD. A 2016 study published in the American Educational Research Journal found that a working environment with effective leadership that fosters professional development opportunities for teachers to advance their careers was “among the more important factors for teachers remaining in positions.”
According to the Learning Policy Institute, effective PD can be defined as “structured professional learning that results in changes to teacher practices and improvements in student learning outcomes.” Effective PD helps teachers to learn and hone educational strategies that improve not just their ability to teach a basic curriculum, but to help students develop real skills like critical thinking, communication, and problem solving.
The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) mandates that professional development programs for teachers and K-12 leaders meet a series of six criteria in order to be effective. According to ESSA, PD programs should be sustained, intensive, collaborative, job-embedded, data-driven, and classroom-focused. While these standards may at first glance seem nebulous, they are open to interpretation and enable school leaders to identify the strategies and methods that will work for their schools and teachers.
While the precise costs of replacing new teachers every year are unknown even to policymakers and administrators, reducing turnover will undoubtedly save valuable resources spent recruiting, hiring, and training new teachers each year.
It’s no surprise that teachers who feel they receive the support they need from their principals and administrators are more likely to stay in their positions. Principals can further encourage this kind of support through PD programs like mentoring and coaching, through which teachers receive guidance from higher level instructors or administrators. By leveraging PD opportunities to create a more supportive school environment, administrators can improve teacher retention.
One of ESSA’s guidelines requires that PD programs be sustained, and provide teachers with time to learn, practice, and implement the new strategies they are developing. Administrators can support these efforts by carving out time in school schedules to allow for increased teacher participation, whether that’s during school hours, after school, or online. Once administrators take the time to invest real resources in PD programs, making sure to track and assess their quality, districts will be better equipped to replicate successful programs, better serve teachers and students, and ultimately improve teacher retention.
At Hoonuit, we’re committed to helping districts develop and implement effective, ESSA-compliant PD programs. That’s why we offer PD program modules that align with state and national PD standards and can be individualized to fit every district’s unique needs and considerations. Using Hoonuit’s classroom-focused training courses, teachers and administrators can access engaging, accredited PD training programs that track and evaluate performance and milestones along the way.
Click here to learn more about how Hoonuit Professional Development’s Learn It. Do It. Share It. Prove It. framework can equip your district to reach every student effectively.