how to increase teacher retention

How to Increase Teacher Retention and Boost Teacher Morale

Even before pandemic-related economic disruptions contributed to “The Great Resignation,” school districts across the country struggled to fill vacancies with qualified teachers. The situation has only worsened over the past few school years. Between August 2022 and August 2023, vacancies have increased, and districts have had to fill more than a quarter million positions with educators who fail to meet state qualifications. Existing teachers and staff must take on more duties to cover these shortages, which are seriously impacting morale, and school leaders are grappling with how to increase teacher retention when jobs in the private sector often look more attractive.

Teacher shortages are driven on both ends of the pipeline. Fewer people are entering the profession, and veteran teachers, who increasingly are reporting job dissatisfaction, are leaving the field or taking early retirement. While turnover rates have slowed, vacancies continue to threaten the ability of public schools to provide their students with a quality education.

Providing incentives and support to encourage college-bound students to enroll in teacher preparation programs will help, but districts can also proactively work to retain their experienced faculty by determining why morale is low and initiating programs that will address the problem.

Why Are Teachers Dissatisfied with Their Jobs?

To understand why teachers are leaving the field, we need to look at what motivates them to enter the profession in the first place. A 2017 National Network of State Teachers of the Year survey found what most people already knew: teachers view their work not as a job, but rather as a vocation. They enter the field with a sense of moral purpose, and guiding the next generation is integral to their personal and professional identity. They are emotionally invested in their students’ growth and academic success. However, federal, state, and local education policies—notably, the push toward high-stakes testing—often conflict with what teachers believe are the best practices for their students.

Educators set high expectations for themselves, seeking to support the whole student beyond academic success, yet the emphasis on test scores and meeting curriculum milestones leaves them frustrated. They are constantly catching up, trying to make the bar, and attempting to close achievement gaps (however the state measures them), which leaves little time to pursue their own learning and growth as educators. They may be struggling with new technology or attempting to incorporate new ideas into their units and lessons without the necessary training.

It’s frustrating and demoralizing. Failure to make progress toward goals for themselves and their students can erode an educator's joy in teaching.

What Do Teachers Need to Thrive?

When districts consider how to increase teacher retention, teacher salaries are often the first thing that policymakers examine. A pay raise will help ease financial stress and provide a morale boost, but money isn’t why most enter the profession, and money alone won’t fix the problem of teachers leaving the field.

A seminal work on motivation and well-being identifies three psychological needs—a sense of efficacy, autonomy, and connectedness—that must be met for humans to flourish. Teachers, whose professional work is intertwined with their personal identities, will more likely thrive in their educator role when meeting these needs becomes the focus of a district’s professional development program.

Teachers have little time to grow professionally because of the daily demands of planning and prepping lessons, teaching, completing paperwork, meeting with colleagues, and interacting with parents. The sense that they are falling behind and short changing their students chips away at their sense of self-efficacy. They may question whether they really can make a difference in their students’ lives.

Educators need relevant and applicable professional development opportunities to stay current with new findings in education and their specific subject areas. As professionals, they need to have control over their career trajectory and the tools to achieve career goals. To reach their full potential as educators, teachers need a supportive community that emphasizes learning.

Modernizing Professional Development Programs to Create a Culture of Learning

Traditional professional development (PD) programs set aside days in the school year to have the entire faculty watch the same presentation or participate in workshops that may or may not be useful. PD becomes just another requirement that adds to a teacher’s workload. The everyone-all-at-once model may seem to be the most efficient way to keep educators up to speed with innovations and new policy initiatives, but time is wasted if they don’t learn anything that they can use.

Technology has made it possible to personalize professional development so a teacher’s expertise, experience, and resources are taken into account. PD can be tailored to consider an individual’s career stage and available resources. Technology also offers flexibility in scheduling PD, as group sessions are often not necessary. For example, state-mandated training can be provided online, and teachers may take the course when it is most convenient and works best with their class schedule.

Personalized PD programs create a school culture that has a focus on learning. Teachers will have more say in what they learn, which makes it possible to pursue goals and master materials that they deem essential to their career growth. Giving teachers this agency demonstrates respect for them as professionals and supports their professional advancement. This is no small thing at a time when so many educators may feel undervalued.

MobileMind Provides Professional Learning Opportunities the Way That Teachers Want

The MobileMind learning hub gives districts the ability to offer individualized, engaging learning opportunities to their faculty and staff. School leaders can develop courses and learning paths addressing the district’s specific needs, such as compliance and new technology training. It also streamlines individualized learning. Teachers may choose courses and learning paths that best fit their interests, needs, and goals.

Educators access this learning through a browser extension or mobile applications, which means they can learn whenever and wherever they want. The gamification element adds fun and challenge to learning with a leaderboard and badges so everyone can engage in friendly competition with their colleagues. Tracking and reporting make it easy for school leaders to follow the progress of teachers and staff as they complete required training and accumulate continuing education hours.

When teachers can choose their courses and learning paths and when they can study relevant topics that they can use right away in their classrooms, PD becomes exciting and can lift morale throughout the district.

MobileMind’s micro courses offer bite-sized learning opportunities that take minutes to complete without leaving the classroom and offer better time management. Schedule a call with MobileMind or request a demo to help ease teacher workflow and retain top talent with improved professional learning opportunities!