Charter leaders know full well that teacher retention is a significant issue facing schools today. Concern over teachers leaving has been growing since the pandemic, causing school leaders to ask: how can schools build lasting relationships with their teachers, which in turn will lead to better outcomes for kids? Experts Dr. Charlotte Pullins and Professor Tuan Nguyen presented their data and answered questions in this week’s webinar.
Professor Nguyen began by presenting the data he and his colleagues have been collecting related to teacher turnover. With many states facing shortages, the requirements to teach have been lowered across the country. The pandemic of course has increased teacher turnover—by about 2 percentage points, meaning an additional 1000 teachers leaving the profession. He presented his findings on www.teachershortages.com, which reports what we know about vacancies state by state. You can take a look at his interactive map on the site, and click on your state for more details.
According to Professor Nguyen’s findings:
- Teachers in rural schools are less likely to leave than in urban or suburban areas
- In those rural areas, Black teachers are more likely to leave than white teachers
- Teachers at low-income schools are more likely to turn over
- Of the teachers leaving, a high portion are novice or special education teachers
Data like these prompt researchers like professor Nguyen to ask: “Where are all these teachers going? Do we not have the right incentives to bring them to the classroom?” The implications of teacher turnover is that it negatively impacts student learning, not to mention that it costs schools and districts money to pay for recruiting and training new teachers. What’s most alarming, according to Nguyen, is that “the teachers that we need the most—black and brown teachers—are leaving these schools at much higher rates.”
So how can charter leaders keep teachers in their schools? Here’s where both experts had a lot to offer. “We want to stop the pipeline from bursting,” said Dr. Pullins, and she outlined actionable steps that schools can take. “Many leave due to life circumstances, but we need to understand—are they leaving the profession or leaving your school? That causes us to ask, does your school have a healthy school culture?”
A healthy school culture, according to Dr. Pullins, should consist of the following:
For teachers to feel valued, school leaders can ask: are we addressing the needs of the teacher? That means building a feeling of belonging through supportive practices, like connecting teachers with veteran teachers. Schools can also create activities so teachers can bond, giving them opportunities to forge relationships with colleagues. Lastly, as Dr. Pullins stated, it’s important to address the psychological needs of a teacher. As she put it: “A healthy teacher produces a healthier classroom.” Particularly when teachers returned to the classroom after the pandemic, they needed their mental health addressed and cared for. Dr. Pullins emphasized offering free counseling for teachers.
Teacher autonomy means allowing teachers to be more creative. “Balance is better,” Dr, Pullins explained, “encourage them to think outside the box.” This doesn’t mean letting teachers have complete reign over their classrooms without guidelines or curriculum—Dr. Pullins encouraged school leaders to keep the big picture in mind: student learning. “It allows people to be more innovative and allows teachers to teach in different ways,” Dr. Pullins believes, stating the importance of seeking feedback. “Ask them—what’s behind the need to change something?”
“People don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses,” Dr. Pullins clarified, which means it’s extremely important to ensure teacher voices are heard, especially minority teachers. School leaders will want to be sure to include everyone in discussions (Dr. Pullins suggested sticky notes with no names, anonymous surveys, polls, or voting), giving them a voice in your school.
These points by Dr. Pullins were supported by the research findings presented by Professor Nguyen, who found a strong correlation between teacher satisfaction and teachers staying put. He mentioned a few key characteristics of a school that is more likely to keep teachers, including robust administrative support, more teacher cooperation, and, at times, a more experienced principal. “Teachers are less likely to leave the profession when they become more satisfied,” he concluded.
When it comes to retaining and recruiting teachers of color, Dr. Pullins emphasized the need for administrators and teacher review teams of color. She pressed school leaders on the need for, first and foremost, the responsibility to protect the psychological safety of teachers of color, along with creating mentor relationships and staff training that focus on belonging. Incorporate games, lunches, and other small steps that contribute an overall positive school culture.
How can school leaders best recruit teachers of color? Professor Nguyen suggested using anecdotes and interviews of existing teachers, offering higher pay, and relocation bonuses. Dr. Pullins echoed these tips, adding signing bonuses, paid COVID days, increased prep time, and more paid time off. She went on to say that schools should consider getting an intern or a student teacher, stating, “The best teacher you can find is one that you grow at your school.” To best understand why teachers are leaving, Dr. Pullins suggested ensuring schools conduct exit interviews and surveys.
Ultimately both experts agreed: schools can either pay upfront to keep teachers healthy and happy, or pay the costs on the back end to recruit for and fill their position. “It’s much more expensive to do it on the back end,” said professor Nguyen, and it’s also better for the school in the long run.”
If you missed this webinar, you can view the webinar recording here.
You can download the slides here.
You can also tune in to YouTube Live this Thursday for more from Dr. Pullins on Teacher Retention.
Read the full webinar transcript below:
Michael B (00:00):
I just want to say a good morning or good afternoon, wherever you are in the world. We appreciate you being here. My name is Michael Barber and I’m the marketing lead here at Charter School Capital. Given we’ve got about 160 of you who have never joined our webinars before, just allow me a few seconds to tell us a little bit about Charter School Capital. We align with charter schools and the belief that students are what matter most. We’ll take the time to understand our school’s goals and work alongside them to grow their unique programs. We know that each school’s journey is different and we understand the unique challenges facing charter schools, and we partner with them to offer holistic and complete support by giving you access to money, resources, and know-how. For school leaders, that means three things. We can get you money to run your schools, money to buy your schools, and kids to help fill your schools.
Now, entirely enough time on us. I want to focus on our conversation related to teacher retention today and give you a little bit of background of how we got to this date and this conversation around teacher retention. We were fortunate to be at the 2022 National Charter Schools Conference and we asked about 400 charter leaders, “What’s the biggest challenge that you’re facing?” And almost a third of you, in fact, about 35, 36% of our school leaders who we had the chance to meet in Washington D.C. this year said teacher retention was their largest challenge. And so we very quickly set to work to build resources to help tackle that challenge, and that’s how we ended up here today.
I’m really overjoyed to welcome two experts on this topic. We’re going to have a conversation with Professor Nguyen, as well as Dr. Charlotte Pullins, and I’m going to give you a little bit of information on those two and then I will turn over the floor for them to take you through some incredible content. Professor Nguyen is going to talk to us about all the data that his team has done around understanding what’s driving teacher retention challenges, along with what teachers are telling him that can help them stay and be engaged in their jobs. And then we’re going to turn it over to Dr. Charlotte Pullins, and she’s going to take you through some teacher retention strategies, particularly for black, brown and teachers of color, and she’ll have some great content for you as well just later on in our conversation.
Just a few things for you. Yes, we are recording the webinar. You will get that recording as well as the slides at the conclusion of our discussion today. Please feel free to use the QA and chat buttons right here on Zoom to ask your questions. I’ve got my wonderful colleague, Isabella, sitting right in front of me that will be trafficking those questions to us, and we’ll make sure we reserve some time for those questions as we get to the conclusion of today’s chat.
Also, want to let you know we are bringing Dr. Pullins back on Thursday for our YouTube Live series. It’s a quick chat every Thursday on our YouTube Live channel. That’s youtube.com/charterschoolcapital. We’ll be there discussing additional questions with you on Thursday afternoon, depending upon where you are. It’s 10:00 a.m. Pacific, 1:00 p.m. Eastern, and so we’ll be back to answer some questions from our discussion today, as well as further the conversation related to teacher retention.
That’s enough about us. Let’s get to your speakers. I’m really pleased to introduce you to two individuals that you see on your screen today. The first is Dr. Charlotte Pullins. She has spent over a decade in education and is the co-founder of a nonprofit 501(3)(c) organization designed to educate underserved children. She is also the founder and lead consultant at ELC Training and Consulting, as well, Dr. Pullins is a certified diversity and inclusion specialist. She currently works as the director of diversity, equity and inclusion and belonging at Arizona Charter Academy. And recently, and this is how we got to know her, she spoke at the National Charter School Conference on the topic of African American teacher retention and she also has spoken on topics such as inclusive schools, teacher self-efficacy, and student achievement and belonging. Dr. Pullins, welcome to our conversation today.
Charlotte Pullins (04:04):
Michael B (04:05):
We appreciate you being here.
Charlotte Pullins (04:05):
I’m glad to be here.
Michael B (04:07):
Our second speaker, thank you, thank you. Our second speaker is Tuan Nguyen. He’s an assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Kansas State University. He applies rigorous quantitative methods, quasi experimental designs and meta-analysis to examine one, the teacher labor markets, particularly looking at the factors that drive teacher attrition and retention. And two, the effects and implication of teacher policies and education policies intended for social, equity and school improvement.
And I just have to say, we found Tuan via a place where many of us go to find information, and that it was the Google. It was no surprise after I dived into Tuan’s background, he does incredible research on the topics of teacher retention and we are just really excited we are bringing his voice to this conversation this morning. So, Tuan, thank you so much for being here with us. And on that note, I’m going to turn it over to you to share your screen and start the conversation off on all the data that you’ve got that talks to why teachers, why we’re having a teacher retention challenge.
Tuan Nguyen (05:10):
Thank you very much for having me here. All right, so the topic that I’ll talk about today is mostly going to focus around the charter school teacher retention. We can go to the next slide.
Michael B (05:23):
Tuan Nguyen (05:25):
All right. So, you know very well that there’s been so many reports about teacher shortages across the United States, right? In response, states have lowered the requirements for certified teachers and substitute teachers. We’ve tried to use retired teachers. We have asked administrators to come in and teach the classroom. We’ve even asked parents and even a national guard to step in to fill these shortages. At the same time, we know that there’s been declines in the teach productions and an increase in teacher turnover in part due to the pandemic. The data have shown that over the last couple of years teacher attrition has increased by about a two percentage points. And you might think, “Well, two percentage point, that can’t be that bad.” On average, nationally the attrition rate is about eight percentage points, so an additional or two percentage point, that brings us up to 10 percentage points. That is for a state with say 50,000 teachers, that’s an additional 1,000 teachers who are leaving the profession and that we need to fill.
Some have argued that there’s a national teacher shortage and others contend that there is really an imbalanced distribution of teachers. In other words that we do have teachers out there or that who are certified, but we just don’t have them in the right place or we haven’t provided enough incentives to really bring them to the classroom. As of this point, neither the Federal Government, nor the majority of states really provide and collect sufficient informations that would allow us to know the extent of the shortage. So, we know that states report that there are shortages, but we don’t know the extents to which. It could be short one STEM teacher, or it could be short 150 STEM teachers, we don’t know, so that’s one of the challenges that we have.
Next slide, please? All right, so my team and I, in response to this we dig into news reports and we went to the Department of Ed website and policy reports and research to see what informations do we have in terms of how many vacant positions there are. These are positions that have been posted, job openings would have been posted, but they weren’t able to fill. And we created a website called www.teachershortages.com, very direct, and it is all about what we know in terms of vacancy by state in the United States. You can see here this first map shows you just the number of vacant positions by state. Here in my home state we had around 1,200 vacant positions last year, and in the southeast corner of the United States you can see that in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, there have been over 3,000 vacant positions as of ’21, ’22.
Now, Florida in particular, that has increased to over 8,000 vacant positions as of this year, so this teacher shortage issue is worsening in many states. But you can also see that in some states that there are low number of vacant positions. Like in Utah it’s only about 38 positions that were vacant as of last year. There’s a lot of variation across United States. What is one part of this challenge? Well, you know this well, it is high turnover. We have a substantial number of teachers who leave the classroom every year, and we know that the high level of teacher turnover can negatively influence student learning, all right? Teacher turnover is also very costly to schools and districts. Some estimate put it that some districts can spend as much as $20,000 in order to get a new teacher to come in and train them. And the pandemic has certainly worsened this teacher turnover.
And then we have recent work, however, showing that charter schools in particular have greater attrition and with more effective teacher does a switching to public schools, so they’re leaving the charter school network and going to public schools instead, so that’s very problematic.
Next slide, please? All right. But I do want to be careful in framing this that not all turnover is going to be equally across all different contexts. It’s not uniforms. We know that there are differences in urban, suburban, and rural context, and many of you are in the rural context, so I want to address that specifically. Now, teachers in rural schools are actually less likely to turn over than teachers in urban and suburban areas. That may be surprising to some of you. This is different though for teachers in rural states. This is where you have a very isolated state that are geographically isolated. Then you may have teachers that are leaving those schools more often, all right? We also know that novice teachers and special education teachers are more likely to turn over in different rural contexts.
What’s very disheartening is that black teachers are more likely to turn over than white teachers in rural contexts. And at the same time we know that we need these minoritized teachers to teach the students that they best represent. And then lastly, rural teachers in low income schools and in majority minority schools are also more likely turnover than the counterparts in high income and majority white schools. What that means is that at the end of the day the teachers that we need the most in many ways, black and brown teachers are leaving these schools at much higher rate than the counterparts.
Next slide, please? All right, so this is data specifically about in comparisons of comparing teachers in traditional public schools in urban, suburban and rural context, all right, relative to charter schools. Movers are folks who are going to move from one school to another. They’re not leaving the profession altogether. Leavers, those are teachers who are going to leave the profession altogether, all right? You can see here that when we’re looking at the movers or sometimes called switchers that urban charter teachers tend to move at higher rate. They tend to move from one school to another, sub-urban and rural charter teachers are a little bit higher than compared to traditional public schools, but not that much higher, all right?
The problem is when we look at those who are leaving the professions, so they may join a charter school for two, three years, and then they leave the teaching profession altogether. As we can see on the right panel here, that’s 15% or more of urban and suburban chartered teachers are leaving the school in comparisons to that around the eight, nine percentage points of traditional public school teachers. For those of you who are and living this right now, you know that many of your teachers are leaving the charter school network at a much higher rate than before.
Next slide, please? All right, so what can we do in terms of thinking about how can we keep teachers in our school? All right, so looking using national data, so this is nationally representative data, I look through and see what are the school organizational characteristics that can be increased or decreased that can potentially keep teachers in the school? When we look at any sort of turnover, so this is from the perspective of them leaving your particular school, these are the main three things that seems to be very effective in terms of reducing teacher turnover. If you have higher administrative support, then teachers are less likely to leave your school. If you have more teacher cooperation, then teachers are less likely to leave your school. If the principal has more experience, he’s more effective at turning things around at working with teachers, then teachers are also less likely to leave the current school.
Now, when we break that down and we look at movers and switchers specifically, and this is looking at panel B, the second set of data now, we see that administrative support and teacher cooperation are still significant here, meaning that if we increase administrative support or teacher cooperations, then teachers are less likely to leave your school and move to a different school. But principal effectiveness doesn’t seems to have a positive relationship there, it has a insignificant relationship.
This picture, however, is different when we look at teachers who are leaving the profession altogether. Once again, with better administrative support, and that can come from the principal, vice-principal, then teachers are less likely to leave the teaching profession. Having more teacher cooperation doesn’t seem to make a difference here. What it says here, looking at panel B and panel C together is that when you have better teacher cooperations, so teachers are working together in your school, then they’re less likely to leave your school and move to another school. But it doesn’t prevent it from leaving the school. In other words, if teachers are finding a place where they have good relationship with their colleagues, they want to stay in those places, all right? So, encouraging your teachers to work together to really collaborate, share lesson plans, have shared governance, can keep your teachers at your current school. All right, next slide, please?
Michael B (15:12):
Tuan, can I-
Tuan Nguyen (15:13):
Michael B (15:13):
Can I interrupt you for just a moment? I think this is just really fascinating data for a couple of reasons. I’ve been fortunate enough to go into dozens of schools at this point, and one of the things that I’m always struck by is just the feeling of being in a school. There are schools where you have, I mean, for lack of a better way of describing it, and I hate to go sort of shorthand, blase here, but there are schools that have good vibes and there are schools that don’t have great vibes. And I think what you’re hitting on is this idea of administrative support and that collegialness of your colleagues helps a lot, especially when we’re looking at this panel C data. And I know as a data analyst, you’re probably a little discouraged with the way that I’m describing it, right? With this idea of vibes. But I do think it speaks to that idea of feeling that support as a community around administration and their team of teachers.
Tuan Nguyen (16:08):
No, no, that’s exactly right. When these teachers, these schools, they definitely can see that the administrations is supportive of them. And that could mean several different things. That could mean anything from recognizing that the good work that they do in school, the work that they do outside of school. So recognizing that, “Hey, Mr. Smith, he does school engagement or community engagement on the weekends.” Recognize, letting your school know that you value your teachers is very powerful here. And also, sending emails to your teachers, letting them know that, “Hey, we really appreciate what you’ve done and when Mrs. X has to step out and you step up or you took on this responsibility.” Those sort of things may seem small, but it can build that, the vibe and community that keeps teachers where they are.
Michael B (17:00):
Agreed, I’ll let you keep going.
Tuan Nguyen (17:03):
Thank you very much. All right, so now when we look at this and step back and think about what are all the other things that we know from the literature that says that can keep teachers from leaving the professions. My team and I, a couple years ago we conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of all the literature that exists, empirical literature that exists on the factors that influence teachers from leaving their school or staying in school. And here are some of the key findings that we have from this work. Some of the factors that decrease the odds of teacher attrition, you can see that there are some personal correlates, meaning about the teachers themselves. So, older teachers, Hispanic teachers, full-time teachers, teachers with standard certifications are less likely to leave the professions. Things like the work environment, administrative support, induction mentoring, that’s one thing we haven’t touched on yet, can keep teachers at the current school.
This may seem small, but having teaching materials is important for teachers. If they have to go out and buy their notebooks and calculators and things like that and spending of from 500 to a $1,000 of what little they already earn so that they can run their classroom, that’s going to drive them out of the profession, all right? What else in terms of things that can keep teachers? Teacher effectiveness scores. We, contrary to some beliefs that teacher evaluation is going to drive teacher out of professions, what we see is actually that when teachers are evaluated, they know then the things that they can improve on, where their weaknesses are, where their strengths are. That actually it’s compelling for them, so then they’re actually then are more likely to stay than when they are evaluated. Teacher merit pay can also do this. Higher salary can also do this, all right?
What are the factors that can increase the odds of teacher leaving the profession? One, I want to focus on, or two, will be specialty teachers, meaning STEM teachers, special ed teachers, in some places bilingual ed teachers, and novice teachers are those teachers that are more likely to leave the profession. And in terms of what at the school level, schools that have high disciplinary issues, that can drive teachers out of the classroom, and charter schools that we have talked about before, all right? If you want to know more about what are the general factors that can drive teachers in and out of professions, this will be, this meta-analysis is a great place to start.
Next slide please? All right, now bringing this back once again to the charter context. With some ongoing work right now that I have with some colleagues, this is something that we’re examining, looking at how the level of teacher satisfactions for teachers at traditional public schools and teachers at charter school can change how likely teachers are going to leave the profession, all right? And what we see here, as you go from the left to the right, from how dissatisfied they are on the far left to how satisfied they’re on the far right, what you generally see is that teachers are less likely to leave the profession when they become more satisfied.
Now, the blue line is for public school teachers, you can see that it’s fairly linear, all right? And the slope is negative, so the more satisfied they are, the less likely they’re to leave. But when you look at the red line, the slope is steeper. What that means is that for charter teachers in particular, the more satisfied they are, the less likely they are to leave. A reductions from 50% when they’re really dissatisfied to around just 20% when they’re even somewhat satisfied, then they’re much less likely to leave. That is a nearly a 30% point deduction in their likelihood to lead the professions if they become more satisfied. That’s really, really powerful right there it’s that the more satisfied they are, the bigger the bang you have in charter school relative to public school.
Next slide, please? All right, and then this really breaks it down in tabular form, if you will, regression analysis of that same picture. And what I want you to see is that in that column one of any turnover, you see the places where I highlighted the charter and general satisfaction there, all right? And what this says right here is that the more satisfy a chartered teacher is, than they are less likely to leave the profession, even compared to how satisfied a teacher is at a traditional public school. In other words, this feeling of being satisfied at a charter school has a stronger relationship with turnover than the same satisfaction feeling at a traditional public school. As much as you can, if you can get your teachers to feel that they’re satisfied in their work, even just generally satisfied, not they don’t have to be strongly satisfied, then they are going to be much more likely to stay in your current school.
Next slide, please? All right, here I have some recruitment strategies in terms of how to advertise teachers to get them to come to your classroom. And I know we’re going to touch on this a little bit as well, so I’m going to be very quick about this. One of the things that we found is that ads that highlight the non-materialistic and student center incentive can really be powerful for teachers. So letting them know that they have more autonomy, they have a chance to really build that connection with their students is very compelling for teachers. Ads that can highlight the advantages of rural teaching. For those of you who work in rural contexts, is very compelling than just the salary aspect. A lot of these teachers, they want to come back to teach in situations where it’s familiar to them, where they grew up or where they went to school.
Using employee perspective, that next to last one. Using your own teacher’s words and let them tell their story about why they came to your school and why they want to stay is very compelling, because then prospective teachers can see themselves in that sort of same situation. And there are many others here, but I just wanted to focus on some of those.
Next slide, please? All right, and some of the other things that you can do, and this is sort of more higher level things, is thinking about offering higher pay if you’re able to, relocation bonus if you can do that, definitely include teachers of color in the hiring process. If you have teachers of color or principals of color who are part of the hiring process, then you’re going to be more likely to attract other teachers of color. And then you can build up this sort of a critical mass of teachers, administrators in your school. That would then also help with not only recruiting more teachers to your school, but also retaining them at your current school.
I want to point out that novice teachers and special ed teachers in particular need additional support, especially in their first couple of years at your school in order to feel comfortable, to feel satisfied so that they will stay at your current school. And for districts that are geographically isolated or in rural context, you might want to consider pulling your resources together so that you are recruiting teachers to that general area and providing PD together so you reduce cost.
Next slide, please? All right, in terms of administrators and what many of you can do. One of the things we’ve found is that teachers are pretty honest in terms of their intentions about what they’re going to do. If you can gauge their intentions and their satisfaction in the fall, then there are things that you can do to change that in the spring to keep them at your school. So teachers, if they’re saying they’re dissatisfied with their workload, or if they are overwhelmed or scared about the circumstances around your school or about COVID, there are things you can do to address them. Hear them out, listen to them, and as much as you can, if you can change it and get them to participate in that process, it’s going to help them stay at your school. Thinking about the things that you can do to address the concerns about teaching next year will be really, really important.
And once again, shared governance, shared decision-making powers also really helps so that teachers become a part of the community, they have the power to change some of their working environment. That helps them a lot. All right, so that’s it for me and we have more information coming up for you and I’ll, I’ll be glad to take your Q&A later.
Michael B (26:21):
Lovely, so while I stop sharing and we allow Dr. Pullins to share her screen, I screen, I do have a quick question for you, Tuan, and that is this. We got a question specifically around your meta-analysis. Do you have any insights within that meta-analysis that explains any specifics around why Hispanics teachers may stay? Have you been able to slice that data at all or seen data that would provide some suggestions for that specific demographic of teachers?
Tuan Nguyen (26:54):
Oh, so that’s actually a really good question of why Hispanic teachers are more likely to stay relative to the white teachers in their school. We don’t have very strong evidence on this at this point, but what could be happening is that a lot of these Hispanic teachers are teaching more students who are also Hispanic. So there is that idea of representative bureaucracy sort of backwards, to where they are serving the students that they know, so then they’re more likely to stay in their context. But this is an area of ongoing work where we’re trying to see what exactly is compelling to Hispanic teachers that are keeping them at their current school, but doesn’t work in the same ways for say like black teachers or Asian teachers. There are certain things that we know that needs a whole lot more research in order to break down and see what exactly is that we can change to do this better.
Michael B (27:51):
Great question. Got it. Thank you for that answer. It’s very helpful. Marlon Navarro asked that question and she just let us know it was very helpful. Thank you for those insights. Okay, before I turn over the floor to Dr. Pullins, I know we had a few questions related to accessing the webinar via phone. I’m going to ask my colleague, Isabella, if she can just drop those directions into the chat for those of you that may need to access via phone. And with that, Dr. Pullins, are you ready?
Charlotte Pullins (28:17):
Okay, let me get ready-
Michael B (28:18):
Charlotte Pullins (28:27):
All right. Am I sharing correctly?
Michael B (28:30):
You got to switch the screens. It looks like, swap displays that. There we go.
Charlotte Pullins (28:35):
All right. Swap.
Michael B (28:35):
Here we go.
Charlotte Pullins (28:35):
There we go.
Michael B (28:57):
Charlotte Pullins (29:00):
Michael B (29:00):
Take it away.
Charlotte Pullins (29:01):
All right. Thank you everyone for coming out. I’m going to be taking over and talking about teacher retention strategies. I will be giving you teacher retention strategies that are focused on teachers of color, but also teachers in general. First thing I want to say is that a lot of teachers come into teaching, so what we’re trying to do is stop the pipeline from bursting, right? Dr. Tuan talked about how teachers are coming into teaching, but they’re also leaving, so plugging that pipeline is going to make a difference. How do we get teachers to stay, especially teachers of colors, and what strategies are we going to use in order to keep them? We need to find ways in order to grow our teachers and also to keep them there, because we’re learning that it’s the Great Resignation. So teachers are leaving for abundance of reasonings, so what we want to do is try to stop that.
To begin with, we talk about healthy culture. Let me go back, my slides are going to fast. Where do we start? Retaining teachers is difficult. Many teachers leave teaching because of things like life circumstances. But one thing we need to make sure we understand, are they leaving the profession or are they leaving your school? If they’re leaving your school, you need to be able to determine, does your school have a healthy school culture? Do the teachers have relationships with each other? Are they able to give feedback? Do they feel emotional and physically safe, especially for teachers of color. Those are going to be some paramount, some important things that you need to know.
Now, one way to gather that is to ask teachers through exit surveys, through also through exit interviews. When you have exit surveys and exit interviews, what you’re doing is you’re trying to figure out why are people leaving your school? And that is so important to, if you’re going to retain teachers, especially teachers of color, if teachers of color are leaving, then why, what is their reasoning? They’re going to need to have someone who’s going to be able to do quantitative and qualitative reviews in your school in order to understand that, I think that’s the crux of where you need to start. You need to interview, you need to survey, and you need to understand. From that understanding you’re going to gain what, I call it three aspects of why teachers stay, value, autonomy, and voice. When teachers feel like they’re valued, it brings more to your school. I love this quote that I have. “People will forget what you said, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel.”
And that goes so far when it becomes to teachers and when it comes to teachers of color. Value is one thing that is very important. And also, there’s three other critical components, belonging, support, and psychological needs. Those three things are what your school needs to be honing in on. So, you want to create interactive activities where teachers can bond, establish relationships with teachers, especially teachers of color. Are you going to eat with them? Are you going to create shout-out boards? Are you going to do peer-to-peer notes? All those things will help foster belonging and make people feel like they’re valued at your school.
Another aspect is support. What supports are you offering? I know Dr. Tuan talked little bit about support, so are you connecting teachers with veteran teachers? Are you connecting teachers with mentors and instructional coaches? All those things are going to make a big difference in how people feel at your school.
Another thing addressing psychological needs, and I’m going to go more in depth with this for teachers of color, but in general with your school culture, are you addressing the needs of the teacher? One thing I know that works, and we’ve done it at our school, we started talking about Second Step, a program that helps you, helps teachers and adults with social-emotional learning. Now, we know that a healthy teacher produces a healthier classroom so that especially in the times of COVID where teachers were very isolated, they’re coming back into school with these psychological needs that schools are not trying to help or invest in. I’m going to go more about that. You can do SEL workshops, you can do adult counseling.
Does your school offer free counseling for teachers? You should. Teachers are in need of that. Like I said, healthy mental teacher, healthy school classroom. There is a correlation between them. Then when we continue to talk about value, we have to talk about autonomy. We talked about that a little earlier. Remember, teachers like autonomy, control leads to compliance, but autonomy leads to engagement. So, you’re going to allow teachers to be more creative. You’re going to, remember balance is better and you’re going to encourage them to think outside the box. But I understand with administration people get a little tense when you say give teachers autonomy. It is not about letting teachers have free reign over their classrooms. It’s about, and that’s why I put those guidelines in there, administrator guidelines. When you give autonomy, set guidelines, “Okay, you’re going to teach, but you’re going to start at this time. We’re still going to keep the curriculum.” But remember to focus on the big picture. When teachers and administrators focus on the big teacher picture, which is student learning, then that allows for people to be more innovative.
It’s going to help with diverse student needs. Diverse students, students learn and teachers teach in different ways. It just gives them more autonomy. Also, you’re going to seek feedback. Once you give a teacher the chance to do something, give them … Let them tell you the reason why, but also ask them for research. You want to know what’s behind the needs to change something. But autonomy allows teachers to feel more comfortable in your school. And like Dr. Tuan said, when teachers are satisfied, then they stay. Then another thing is the teacher’s voice. People don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses. I hate to say that, but it is true. So when you address, and Dr. Tuan talked about it, you need to address teacher’s concerns early. I love that. But also, remember those exit surveys. So this is not the one time thing, it’s twice at least you should be doing that.
You should ensure people’s voices are heard, especially with minority teachers. If you have a minority teacher or a teacher of color who is in your school, your charter school, and they’re the only one, they probably won’t have such a big voice as someone else, so this is your chance to include everyone in discussions. I’ve been in meetings where only certain people talk, okay? That’s a problem. How can you fix that? You can ask everyone to give their answer. And if some people are shy, especially teachers of color, you want to be able to give them another option of anonymous polls or anonymous surveys, sticky notes with no names, voting in other different kind of ways. But it’s going to allow them to give a voice in your school, and that’s going to come back to value that we talked about earlier. Make sure to share input and solutions and that will help your school as well.
Now, we’re going to go into teacher of color recruitment. People always ask me, “Well, where do I find teachers of color?” There’s numerous places to find teachers of color, specifically online African American or Hispanic teaching groups, sororities or fraternities. Go to those colleges, go and grab those teachers out. That’s where you’re going to get your teachers. Remember, if you can get a teacher to student teach or even another thing, a intern at your school, you’re going to grow your pipeline. You are going to get the teachers that you’re looking for. And research does say, when a teacher teaches, a student teaches at a school that they are more likely to stay in that same kind of school when they’re done with student teaching. If you want them to grow them at your school, okay?
You want to try HBCUs or Hispanic, predominantly serving institutions. Teach for America turns out a lot of great teachers. Pathways to Teaching program. Check your local state for other different maybe teaching groups that you may have online. I found so many teacher groups that are online. Now, another thing, now, we talked about recruitment. Now there’s one thing to recruit teachers, but there’s should be a process that you’re putting together. So here’s a six-step process that will allow you to recruit teachers of color. Step one, recognize. Step two, analyze. Step three, redesign. Four is implement. Five is communicate, and six is monitoring review. I will give you access to this so you can go over this. You need to do this with your hiring committee, not just one person on your hiring committee that’s a teacher of color, but multiple that could be in administration. If you don’t have administrators who are teachers of color, then you need to have teacher review teams so that everyone has a voice.
Now, here are some specific strategies to use for teachers of color. You need to protect psychological safety. We know that there’s, in the past there were times of social crisis. That’s when you need to check in on those teachers of color. No long conversations, just emotional check-ins just to see how they are. The show that you value, goes back to value, it goes back to value with them. And then you want to create allies and mentors. And there’s a difference between a ally and a mentor, totally different. A mentor can be someone, teaching the teacher, shows them the ropes, a new teacher, but an ally is usually not someone who’s a teacher of color and a teacher of color. You need someone that is not a teacher of color with a teacher of color as an ally. I’ve had allies in my past. Those were the ones where if I couldn’t speak, they would speak up because they were more comfortable with speaking up. So, make sure you have some of those pairings.
Then you have teachers of color in higher positions. We always say that that’s going to keep, we are going to keep saying that. Coaching, hiring, instructional coaches, all those things creates a wealth of diversity. Now, staff training should focus on belonging. Now, when you have staff training that focuses on belonging, it doesn’t have to be something that’s mandatory. People always think it’s you have to do that. You do not you. What I suggest is that you have optional paths for teachers to be independent of. They can choose, give them the choice. Choice really is really important. If they want to do the DIB path in professional development, that’s something I would say you can do. It could be books, it could be videos, it could be podcasts, all those different things.
And you’ll be surprised. Some people want to know more, and then you’ll have some who don’t want to learn more, which is also okay. Now, in general, all teachers need growth opportunities. Even minority teachers, teachers of color. Allow teachers to lead professional developments. Give the people who usually don’t try a chance because it’s going to give them pride of the profession. You want to give a kind of distributive leadership plan, not autocratic where you’re just telling them exactly what to do, but some way to get them involved. When teachers feel like they have a voice and they have some sort of buy-in, that’s satisfaction. That’s one way you can get them to stay. Remember, I’m going back to teacher wellness because that is so important, especially for teachers of color, especially a couple years ago. And you want to incorporate that social emotional learning into your schools.
What we did as a school was create a, we bought a program called Second Step. It’s a great program that we use for our adults. And right now we’re going over stress. What is stress? How to handle stress with colleagues. All those things will help a teacher in their mental wellness. Then I want you to craft a school environment. This is where that satisfaction comes in. Respect, encouragement, but do things like teacher lunches, pancake with the principal. You know what we had? We crafted our school environment to include games. We did a minute to win it game at the beginning of the year, but it was so impactful because it allowed people to talk to other people they usually wouldn’t talk to. They had a fun activity to do. But remember, whatever you can do to build that culture, that environment, that healthy school culture will go a long way when it comes to satisfaction.
Then last, you want to create change ages. You want meaningful, innovative ideas. Allow people to go on school walks, learning walks, visit classrooms, see how another teacher’s doing. That builds not only autonomy, but it also builds and encourages Leadership, encourages change, but they become change agents. They’re looking at ways to improve themselves. That gives more satisfaction.
Now, another thing we’re talking about is money. Now, I know a lot of people don’t have money to just give out the signing bonuses, but you also can offer one to two year contracts. Try things like paid COVID days, add PTO days, give them a chance to go to conferences and opportunities paid or just the time off. Dress code changes, jeans, increase prep time. And lastly, late start times. These are all ways that you can infuse money or just different retention strategies to create satisfaction with employees. And in summary, remember teacher turnover’s costly, but you want to give people the opportunity to have a voice. They need to feel valued and they need autonomy. And that goes across the board for teachers of color and all teachers. But if you can focus on those things and think about those things, you’ll create a school environment that is outstanding for teachers of color and every teacher. Thank you.
Michael B (45:38):
Thank you, Dr. Pullins. We appreciate that and can’t wait to share both of your slides with everyone. There’s been a lot of questions about if you’re going to get the slides, the session recording. Yes, you’re going to get all of this as soon as we wrap up today. We’ll package it up and get it into your inbox. I have a couple questions to start, but would love for, if you do have any additional questions, please feel free to use our Q&A feature here on Zoom. I want to go back really quickly, Dr. Pullins, to your conversation about autonomy, because I think this is such a keen insight.
I was with Dr. Wes Graner, who is the executive director of STARS, they’re a charter school, performing arts charter school based in Vass, North Carolina. And we were just having a conversation about how he has grown the school from 220 so students to now they have 880 on a wait list. And one of the things he said to me that I thought was so insightful was, he’s like, “I’m here to create the vision, which creates the structure, but I’m here to allow the teachers to create the path from that vision.” And I think that’s such an insightful statement, because it speaks exactly to what you just mentioned. I would just love your thoughts on that?
Charlotte Pullins (46:52):
Definitely. I think autonomy allows teachers to just be creative. Teaching is a creative field. People usually come into teaching because they have creative minds. So, when you allow teachers to be creative, to do things differently, they notice, you have to know that teachers know what to teach best in their classrooms, what’s best for their students. Every classroom is different and every year students are different. When you give a teacher autonomy, they flourish, they grow, they feel valued. They feel like you are giving them a voice in how the school is run in a certain way. Remember, I said there are administrative guidelines that you have to do with autonomy, but it is a great way for school districts to give teachers value.
Michael B (47:48):
Yeah, such good insights. I have a question for both of you. This comes from Kathy Emerson. She asks, or they ask, I should say, “Is protecting psychological safety two-pronged? Checking in on emotional wellbeing shows care, value, humanity, but should it be paired with resources if more support is needed?” She mentions SEL is a great approach to understand, SEL and taking care of teacher wellness, but what if more intensive support is needed?
Charlotte Pullins (48:20):
I can answer that. I have had, in my job I do a lot with belonging and how teachers feel. I have had teachers come to me with suicide emergencies. You have to be aware that there’s a whole spectrum of teachers who are teaching at your school. You should have resources available for them. Like I mentioned, we have a free counseling service. Just the other day I signed a teacher up for those free counseling service. Someone has to be the gatekeeper of the resources for teachers, because it allows them to feel comfortable and know that someone they can talk to and that there’s no stigma to needing help in as a teacher, because teaching is a hard job. Have someone, designate someone they know they can talk to. Have a resource packet ready for them where you can give them and let them know, “Here’s something we can do for you as a school. We’re behind you and whatever you need, we’re going to try to help.”
Michael B (49:25):
I couldn’t agree more there.
Tuan Nguyen (49:27):
Michael B (49:27):
Tuan Nguyen (49:30):
To that point, when you think about this, it’s like you can either pay, putting resources and money up front to keep your teachers where they are. Keep them happy, healthy, mentally well prepared to teach, or you can pay on the backend when they leave and you have to find someone to take their spot. And I can tell you the evidence shows that it’s much more expensive to do it on the back end. Finding money to do it on the front end is not only more humane, create a better environment, but it’s also better for the school and the district in the long run. It really is. And just one more note, it’s really fascinating to me that a lot of the things that I’m saying and that Charlotte’s saying are very, very similar, they go hand in hand, right? It’s about the community, about the school, mental wellbeing, satisfaction, that if you have all these pieces, then your teachers are more likely to stay.
Charlotte Pullins (50:28):
Michael B (50:28):
Such good insights. And Dr. Pullins, just acknowledging one thing you mentioned that sparked something in my mind, Craig Cason, who runs two charter schools or three charter schools at this point in Atlanta, talks specifically about one of your recruitment strategies for teachers of color, and that was fraternities and sororities. When I was at their school last Friday and the amount of key lanyards that I saw with Alpha Kappa Alpha and Data Sigma Theta, right, Delta Sigma Theta, excuse me. It’s such a good insight that I don’t think people realize there’s just some key things that can help you recruit teachers of color.
Charlotte Pullins (51:08):
Oh yeah. There’s even online, I have to find a resource and give it to you, but if you plug in what state and city you’re in, it will tell you how many Hispanics teachers they serve, how many African American teachers that they serve. It is a plethora of information, but fraternities and sororities is the way to go. Because there’s a network. Fraternities and sororities work as a network. If you tell one person in the sorority, they usually broadcast it, “Oh, this school is looking for somebody.” It is a untapped resource that I think that districts need to do. They need to go into the college. The best teacher you can find is one that you grow at your school. Also, I wanted to say teacher interns. It’s a great way to build teachers, because they’re invested and they stay usually.
Michael B (52:08):
Great insights, for sure. Professor Nguyen, I have a question about the data source that I wanted to address really quickly with you. Specifically the reference to the charter school stats, is that combining, is that all charter, So public or private charter schools?
Tuan Nguyen (52:26):
that’s when we actually a able to compare charter school specifically compared to traditional public school. We have data on both and then we’re comparing against each other.
Michael B (52:37):
Okay, wonderful. Okay, next question. How do you reconcile teacher creativity and autonomy with demands for high-stakes testing and students performance needs in schools? Would love some thoughts there?
Tuan Nguyen (52:54):
I can start with this one. One of the challenges is in an education that we have is that I think sometimes we try to cover too much in our curriculum, and we don’t cover it in-depth. An inch wide and a mile deep. No, you know what I’m trying to say there. We need to give teachers the autonomy so that they can cover the really interesting materials that students then conceptually bring into their thinking and into their work, and not just cover materials just for the sake of covering materials. That doesn’t work. We’ve seen that over and over. It’s when teachers try to teach to the test or try to just cover all the materials, they don’t end up really learning anything.
And the next year, and I taught for seven years, having students who learn that way, they come into the school next year and, “I don’t remember any of this stuff.” Well, why is that? It’s because you only cover the bare minimum. It doesn’t become a part of your thinking. Practice makes permanent. You need to see the materials over and over and over so that you can really, really learn it and not just like, “Hey, one and done.”
Charlotte Pullins (54:06):
Yeah, I love how you said that. It makes me think about the teacher I learned from the best. I think he was the autonomous teacher. It was a science class in high school, and he came out as an instructor from a foreign country, and he had changed his accent and he had put on different clothes, but it was so different than what we were used to. No other teacher was doing that, but we learned so much. And that’s just one example. But teachers need the autonomy to be creative. And like I said before, they know their students, but you still have to teach for the standards, not the test. If you teach for the standards, you’re going to stay on course. And that’s where a lot of, like Dr. Tuan said, there’s a lot of people who teach for the test and they miss out on all those great standards, because they’re teaching for the test. Give them autonomy but also hold them to teaching to the standards. If you can do that, they can be creative and still cover everything you want them to cover in your district.
Tuan Nguyen (55:18):
So to add on to that, so if you are visiting a teacher’s classroom, don’t check to see did they hit all the objectives that are supposed to hit on that particular day. And just like checkbox, right? It’s more a matter of like, “Hey, did they build this in?” Make it in-depth so that students can make connections to what they learned previously and make connections to their lives and how it’s meaningful? Looking for those meaningful pieces are much more important than did they cover factoring today? Did they cover looking at linear functions, right?
Charlotte Pullins (55:52):
Michael B (55:54):
Thank you for those insights. Next question, “Are there any cultural surveys or diagnostic tools that can help us administer to our staff?” I’m assuming Dr. Pullins, you may have some thoughts there.
Charlotte Pullins (56:06):
Yes, there is. I can give, Michael, I can give you that link for that. We did a survey at our school at the beginning of the year on culture, so you will get data back from that, and it’s one you can use freely. It’s a free survey that you can take, and I advise you to do that so you can see the culture, you can see what people’s thoughts are and where they are as far as their cultural awareness. So yes, there are surveys to do that.
Michael B (56:37):
Appreciate that. Okay, I want to be respectful of both your two’s time and everyone that’s joining us today and wrap up on time. For everyone want to mention that we will be back on YouTube with Dr. Pullins this Thursday. I’ve just dropped that link into our Zoom chat. Feel free to subscribe to the channel. We do a weekly Thursday Live on all things enrollment marketing, but we’re shifting the conversation to teacher retention on Thursday. We would love to see you there, and Dr. Pullins will continue to answer your questions there.
I want to say big thanks to both Professor Nguyen and Dr. Pullins for joining us today. It was a true pleasure working with both of you on getting to this date, and I know these slides and your thoughts and insights are going to be incredibly impactful for all 450 of the registrants of our webinar today. Thank you for joining us, we appreciate you being here.
As always, we are Charter School Capital. We appreciate your time and attention. If you need any resources that can help you get where you’re going as a school leader, feel free to drop onto charterschoolcapital.com. We’ll see you in a few weeks for another webinar. Check your inboxes from our team and you’ll get that invite. And otherwise, please feel free to join us every Thursday on YouTube, 10:00 a.m. Pacific, 1:00 p.m. Eastern. Will be back this Thursday with Dr. Pullins. Thanks so much, everyone.
Tuan Nguyen (57:56):
Charlotte Pullins (57:57):