Nobody is immune – school districts across the country feel the impact of teacher turnover. Teachers are leaving the profession at alarming rates, but some are also moving schools and school districts. The phenomenon called teacher migration accounts for half of the turnover affecting schools and districts. Institutions in high-poverty areas feel this loss the most, further compounding the challenges low-income families face. For students to achieve academic success, schools and districts must have robust teacher recruitment and retention strategies in place.
Clayton County Schools’ Chief of Safety and Security Thomas Trawick says investments in teacher safety can be a valuable tool for marketing and recruiting because “districts are competing for the same resources. The availability is diminishing rapidly because fewer people are going into teaching. So districts have to have something in their toolbox that pulls resources from other districts.”
Teacher Turnover Hurts Students and Schools
Simply put, teacher turnover costs districts money. According to The Learning Policy Institute, urban districts can spend more than $20,000 on each new hire, including school and district expenses related to separation, recruitment, hiring, and training. Quality educators are worth the investment – but only if they stay at that school. If after only a few years that teacher leaves, the district has to reinvest in another new hire. The long-term cost of constant reinvestment is simply not feasible. With a strategic teacher recruitment and retention program, schools can support and encourage their teachers to stay in the classroom and see a return on their investment.
While the financial impact of teacher turnover is noteworthy, its impact on students is also considerable. Regardless of a teacher’s reason for leaving, whether it be for a different school or a different career, the impact of their departure is felt by students. They lose an established relationship with an adult they trust. No matter their individual philosophy, every educator will stress the importance of relationships between teachers and their students. If and when a new educator takes their place in the classroom, there’s unfamiliarity with the students, curriculum, and school practices. Staffing shortages also often result in teachers managing larger class sizes – which can increase behavioral issues – and spending their free periods covering for others. All that can culminate in teacher burnout.
Teachers aren’t the only ones whose absence can impact students and their academic success. Turnover from general school staff can also have detrimental effects. And it’s no surprise that these effects are often felt by students with the highest needs. Bus driver shortages, for example, can result in rural and low-income students arriving late and missing valuable time in the classroom. A shortage of teaching assistants and specialized staff can impact students with disabilities and English language learners. It’s difficult to build a safe and supportive environment with constant new faces – there is no familiarity or trust built there yet. The best school communities are ones that have established staff that can model the desired community and culture. When a positive school-staff culture exists, it permeates the classroom and the students feel it. The result is a safer environment.
So what makes a school or district attractive to prospective employees? What strategies can be enacted and utilized to attract and retain quality educators and school staff?
Work Environment is a Top Factor Affecting Staff and Teacher Recruitment and Retention
A 2020 report studied what factors increase teacher retention and found that the work environment consistently ranked as a top factor. “There are clear things school districts can do to recruit high-quality teachers…To reduce teacher shortages, however, promoting teacher retention is perhaps even more important,” says Christopher Redding, Assistant Professor of Education Leadership at the University of Florida. “A growing research consensus suggests that positive working conditions are the most important factor in shaping teacher retention.”
So what about the work environment needs to change for educators? First, they need to feel heard by leadership and the district. Their safety and mental and physical well-being must be a top priority. Right above basic needs for food, water, shelter, and others on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is safety. We all have the basic need to feel safe in our environment. Teachers also deserve to be respected by everyone they interact with – students, parents, peers, and leadership. They need to feel empowered in the workplace. With 55% of teachers considering leaving the profession – up from 37% in August 2021– according to a poll conducted by the National Education Association, the need to act is imperative.
What one person may find appealing in a job can differ from another. Still, many aspects are universal: purpose, growth, recognition, benefits, a safe working environment, and a fair salary. Teachers are no different.
While teaching may feel like a calling to some, the stress and challenges they face daily take a toll on them and their families, especially when those challenges impact their sense of safety. Leaving may feel like the only choice. School administrators must carefully examine the reasons teachers are departing and commit to making the necessary changes to recruit and retain high-quality educators and staff at their schools.
Qualities that affect a teacher’s choice in school include:
- Long-term employment
- Visible administration and school board that lead with transparency
- Demonstrative school leadership that includes teachers in decision-making
- Adequate materials for the classroom
- Personnel with expertise in mental and physical health episodes
- Reasonable workloads
- Manageable classroom sizes
- Safety protocols that protect themselves and their students
- Compassion and understanding for life outside school
Teacher Autonomy and Safety are Interconnected
An educator’s sense of safety and autonomy is paramount to ensuring their effectiveness. With 22 years in education administration, former Superintendent of Hart County Charter System, GA, Jay Floyd says a teacher should be granted the authority and support to be “CEO of the classroom.”
When teachers feel safe and trusted by their administrators, they can focus on effective teaching and student success. “When teachers look at us, as a school district,” says Floyd, “it’s part of my responsibility to make sure I’ve got the things in place, the tools that they need to be able to teach in the classroom, and one of those is safety.” This peace of mind also allows them to explore professional development and leadership opportunities, both keys to long-term job satisfaction.
A Brown University study examined the findings of the New York City Department of Education School Survey, concluding that “the degree to which students and teachers feel their school is a safe, orderly learning environment is of central importance for student achievement.” If we look nearly 20 years into the past, concerns regarding safety and discipline were two top reasons teachers left their jobs; and they’ve only intensified in recent years, further underscoring the need for effective safety procedures and policies in schools.
Retention and Recruitment Strategies
The most effective retention and recruitment strategies focus on a few key items: teachers’ well-being, both physical and financial; emotional health; and job satisfaction. Schools successful in teacher retention and recruitment efforts not only compensate their teachers adequately but also create an environment that grants teachers autonomy and provides opportunities for growth and networking. Having a strong structure in place to support and propel teachers is key for any school looking to attain high levels of teacher retention. Teachers, in turn, create the structure and culture in their classrooms that support strong student academic achievement.
Successful strategies utilized by school districts to recruit and retain high-quality educators include:
- Engaged administrators throughout the hiring and onboarding process
- Communicative leadership that empathizes with teachers’ needs
- Positive stories shared by word-of-mouth by staff and stakeholders
- Upgrading school safety systems with state-of-the-art technology
Definitive actions like investing in an upgraded school safety solution are key to combating the astronomical cost of teacher turnover. Improving the safety and security of your school doesn’t just positively impact teacher recruitment and retention; it helps foster a culture and climate in which students feel comfortable and safe to learn. When students feel safe, that gives all stakeholders, including parents and other community members, peace of mind.
In addition to the support needed for daily instruction and classroom management, teachers need access to quality professional development. According to the Economic Policy Institute, “By failing to provide teachers with broad access to effective training and professional development, as well as to learning communities where their professional judgment is considered, we hurt teachers’ effectiveness, sense of purpose, and career advancement opportunities.” When schools fail to provide this type of professional development, they’re unlikely to see strong retention rates.
CENTEGIX CrisisAlert™ Solution Makes Teachers Feel Safe
The CENTEGIX CrisisAlert solution includes a discreet, wearable badge that allows teachers to summon help immediately. In all types of situations, from medical emergencies to disciplinary incidents to the approach of an unauthorized visitor, the CENTEGIX CrisisAlert badge alerts administrators and first responders to a teacher’s location and need for assistance. The sense of security this solution provides to teachers contributes to their effectiveness and to their feelings of being supported by their administration.
According to Thomas Trawick, Retired Police Chief of Safety and Security for the fifth largest school district in the state of Georgia, district staff were most concerned about medical emergencies, fights, and other everyday occurrences. Using their CrisisAlert badges, they could summon qualified support staff for assistance; or for major emergencies, teachers were able to immediately notify Trawick or a School Resource Officer.
One educator shared how helpful the CrisisAlert badge was during a medical emergency:
I heard something that sounded like shoes squeaking and then a loud thud outside of my room. I went out of the room to check and there was a student lying on his back in front of the bathroom. I quickly went to him and asked him if he was okay. He was staring at the ceiling and seemed to have trouble speaking. I determined that it was a medical emergency and thought that I needed to get the principal quickly. I was going to tell a student to ‘run, go grab the principal’ when I remembered I had my Centegix badge on. I hit the button three times and felt the buzz letting me know that the alert had been received. My principal came out of the office and ran down the hall toward us. We were able to handle the medical situation quickly and efficiently, without disturbing the rest of the school or alarming students. I was very thankful for my badge and how easy it was to use it.
Teachers recognize the value of having an emergency response solution that can help them regain control of their classrooms in stressful situations. The immediate response from administrators further contributes to teachers’ sense of safety and security. When administrators demonstrate solidarity with their teachers, they help create a culture of safety, one in which teachers are eager to work.
CENTEGIX’s CrisisAlert badge is the best solution to enhance school safety through instant, reliable communication. The CrisisAlert badge supports teacher recruitment strategies by enabling every teacher and staff member to trigger instantaneous contact with support personnel. The CrisisAlert badge can seamlessly integrate with the school’s existing security measures while covering communications gaps they leave behind. Unlike a wall-mounted panic button or intercom, the CrisisAlert badge is always on the teacher or staff member’s person, so they can call for help from any location.
The CrisisAlert badge is:
- Worn alongside teacher ID
- Easy to use
- Deployable from anywhere
CENTEGIX is the leader in incident response solutions. Our CrisisAlert platform is the fastest and easiest way for staff to call for help in any emergency, from the everyday to the extreme. CENTEGIX creates safer spaces by innovating technology to empower and protect people, and leaders nationwide trust our safety solutions to provide peace of mind. To learn more about CENTEGIX, visit www.centegix.com.