by Kerri Briggs
A new report released by TNTP (formerly The New Teacher Project) reveals that retaining highly effective teachers – a crucial lever in improving student achievement – has been overshadowed by the heavy focus placed on the quantity of teachers employed throughout our public schools. Favoring a quality over quantity approach, the study magnifies the important role school leaders play in retaining highly effectiveteachers and creating the environments necessary for them to continue their success in the classroom.
In its report, The Irreplaceables: Understanding the Real Retention Crisis in America’s Urban Schools, TNTP highlights that high-performing teachers and their low-performing colleagues are retained at a strikingly similar rate. To put it plainly, great teachers are leaving our nation’s lowest performing schools at the same pace ineffective instructors. Even more shocking is the fact that many of these “Irreplaceables” or those teachers who provide the biggest gains in student achievement, are not even encouraged to stay at the schools that need them most.
The groundbreaking report comes during a period of high emotions surrounding issues in public education including lay-offs, bargaining rights and budget-cuts. It is our hope that TNTP’s work will help change the national conversation about public education and bring forth a positive discourse centered on retaining the best teachers, no matter his or her years of service, as opposed to a debate focused merely on the number of teachers currently employed.
The George W. Bush Institute would specifically like to recognize TNTP for devoting a portion of its research to the impact of school leadership on teacher performance and students achievement. The Bush Institute’s inaugural initiative, the Alliance to Reform Education Leadership (AREL) is actively collaborating with its affiliates to change the way America’s public school principals are recruited, prepared, empowered and retained. In line with AREL’s mission is TNTP’s research, which makes clear that principals matter in the decisions of great teachers to stay at the schools needing them most.
The report highlights that “two in three irreplaceables”, leave their schools without even having a principal encourage them to stay. This lack of action makes no sense and is devastating to the millions of underserved children affected by the all-too-high turnover of quality teachers. AREL, like TNTP, believes principals are best suited to impede the trend of teacher attrition.
TNTP also found that Irreplaceables have a 50 percent higher turnover rate in schools that “lacked cultures of respect, trust and rigor.” Yet, these are the schools that need America’s most promising teachers. School leaders have the ability to positively affect these areas, as well as a teacher’s professional development, providing the resources necessary for success and the power to retain good teachers while releasing ineffective ones.
For these reasons, AREL applauds TNTP for providing concrete guidance in its document, “5 Ways Principals can Keep More Irreplaceable Teachers.” These strategies to retain our nation’s most promising teachers – ranging from starting the school year with great expectations to not allowing ineffective teachers to linger – can help ensure that our nation’s best teachers are retained with the most in-need classrooms.
AREL and “The Irreplaceables” believe that school leadership is critical to student success. It is not easy to lead a low-performing public school and it takes courage to fight for great teachers while releasing ineffective ones. But the stakes are too high for our students and our nation for our school’s leaders not to do what is necessary to improve student achievement.
This post was written by Kerri Briggs, Director of Education Reform and the George W. Bush Presidential Center .