American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

General Retention Information

The resource Keeping Quality Teachers: The Art of Retaining General and Special Education Teachers (U.S. Office of Special Education Programs, 2004) provides a framework for actions that are known to support retention of quality teachers. Many of these general tools can apply to the retention of qualified school-based SLPs. These include:

Building a Framework

Improving Working Conditions

  • Supporting the capabilities and value of teachers
  • Including teacher decision-making practices regarding both instruction and school governance issues
  • Enforcing student discipline policies
  • Incorporating professional development opportunities
  • Striving for teaching assignments aligned with certification and background
  • Providing extra compensation for difficult and time-consuming duties

The Role of the Administrator in Teacher Retention

Research indicates that administrative leadership is the most important factor in determining the climate of a school, and there are specific leader activities that allow all teachers to feel supported in their work. A management style grounded in respect for all in the school environment, along with strong communication and interpersonal skills and effective organizational strategies, encourages all teachers to feel supported and gain a commitment to the school and to their responsibilities.

Induction and Mentoring Programs That Work

Successful induction programs include mentoring or coaching that is individualized to the needs of the teacher, the classroom, and the subject level assignment. They provide continuing assistance and ongoing guidance by an expert in the field, support development of knowledge and skills, provide opportunities for reflection, acculturate the new teacher into the profession and the school, provide opportunities for new teachers to observe and analyze good teaching, and include assessment of the program's value to new teachers and its impact on student learning (Berry et al., 2002; Odell, 1989, as cited in Fidelar & Haselkorn, 1999). Teacher induction programs have emerged as having great success in helping to retain teachers in the classroom (Brownell, Bishop, & Sindelar, 2005).

The National Education Association (NEA) publishes a guidebook, Meeting the Challenges of Recruitment & Retention, containing a compendium of effective, innovative, and promising initiatives, strategies, and programs, as well as resources from which to draw, to meet the challenges posed in recruiting and retaining qualified teachers. Many of the initiatives and strategies can be applied to recruitment and retention of speech-language pathologists, as well. The publication contains three major sections, 1) policies, strategies, and initiatives 2) recruitment partnership grants, and 3) recruiting and retaining minorities.

Section 1 describes recruitment strategies that included development of a comprehensive recruitment plan, marketing/outreach campaigns, improved hiring processes, nontraditional routes, and financial incentives. Retention strategies included adequate preparation for teachers, nurturing strategies for new teachers, improved working environments, and additional financial incentives.

Section 2 lists five teacher partnership grants awarded to state and local affiliate partnerships for developing, sustaining, and supporting innovative projects for recruiting and retaining teachers in high need areas. This section provides an overview of each state's project, strategies and objective for the project, accomplishments, and names and contact information for project consultants.

Section 3 of the publication acknowledges that the student body has become increasingly more diverse while the teaching force has not. Resources I this section include description of early outreach programs, scholarship/grant programs, advanced degree programs, and paraeducator-to-teacher programs including contacts (NEA, 2003). A MetLife Survey of the American Teacher finds a clear correlation between quality school relationships and an increased rate of retention among teachers. Teachers stating that they were likely to leave the profession were also more likely to express dissatisfaction with their relationships with parents, the principal, and their students (MetLife, 2005). In another study by the Center for Teacher Quality, which looked specifically at high schools, a similar correlation between better-quality working conditions and decreased teacher turnover was found. Student achievement was also reported to improve with better working conditions. (Center For Teaching Quality, 2007).

Induction Programs

The New Teacher Center (NTC) www.newteachercenter.org is a national resource focused on teacher and administrator induction. The NTC reports a demonstrable record of achievement, with long-term new teacher retention rates as high as 95%, compared with a nationwide dropout rate of nearly 50%.

The NTC rests its foundation on the Santa Cruz New Teacher Project (SCNTP), established in 1988, as a systematic, mentor-based teacher induction model. The NTC's induction model helps novice educators maintain a strategic focus on student learning and classroom instruction with the guidance of highly trained and supported mentors. The NTC works with new and veteran educators, researchers, and policy makers to support the development of strong induction models. This is accomplished by providing resources and programs that address effective mentoring and supervision practices, issues of equity, use of student data to improve instruction, and strategies for meeting the needs of English language learners.

Induction services are provided to every beginning teacher in the Santa Cruz region through the University of California at Santa Cruz. The program has expanded to include other districts across the nation. SCNTP rigorously selects and trains mentors to support new teachers during their first 2 years in the Santa Cruz school district. Mentors also administer assessments to new teachers to evaluate their work.

Kitty Dixon from the NTC reports that 94% of teachers who have been mentored over the last 10 years through the SCNTP are still in education 7 years later. Of those, 88% continue to teach in K-12 classrooms. The Toledo (OH) Plan is a cooperative project between the Toledo school district and the Toledo Federation of Teachers. New teachers are considered interns, and they are supported by mentors and reviewed as to their effectiveness at the end of their first year. A board of review, composed of administrators and teacher leaders, examines the progress of each teacher and decides whether to renew his or her contract. The Toledo Plan also identifies poorly performing veteran teachers and provides them mentored support.

North Carolina has become the first state in the nation to study teacher working conditions by surveying its teachers. In 2002 and 2004, teachers were asked questions about time, facilities and resources, empowerment, leadership, and professional development, and the impact these factors have on whether teachers stay and students learn. North Carolina schools and districts are using the information to make data-driven decisions about improving teacher working conditions, and thereby student achievement, through the creation and support of a stable, high-quality teaching force in every school across the state. The data gathered have been used to generate customized reports for schools and districts about the status of working conditions in their respective schools. More information can be found at Teacher Working Conditions Toolkit.

Whitaker (2000) found that beginning special education teachers with mentors who they rated as effective were more likely to remain in special education. These mentors had the following characteristics:

  • They were special educators.
  • They met with the new teacher frequently.
  • They provided emotional support.
  • They conveyed system information related to the teaching environments and to special education.
  • They informed the new teacher of materials and resources.

In a report from the Alliance for Excellent Education (2004) titled " Tapping the Potential: Retaining and Developing High-Quality Teachers," the following components of a successful induction program are outlined:

High-Quality Mentoring

This is defined as structured mentoring from carefully selected teachers who (a) work in the same field or subject as the new teachers, (b) are trained to coach the new teachers, and (c) can help improve the quality of the teachers' practice. Mentors guide and support the work of novice teachers by observing them in the classroom, offering them feedback, demonstrating effective teaching methods, assisting with lesson plans, and helping teachers analyze student work and achievement data to improve their instruction.

Common Planning Time

Regularly scheduled common planning time helps teachers connect what and how they teach to improving student achievement in a collaborative culture. These strategies may include how to develop lesson plans, use student assessment data, and employ collaborative models to increase student achievement.

  • Ongoing professional development. These activities include regular seminars and meetings that improve a teacher's skill to increase student learning. Professional development should meet teachers' needs to expand content knowledge, teach literacy and numeracy at the secondary school level, address diverse learning needs, and manage student behavior.
  • An external network of teachers. Participation in a network of educators outside of the local school provides teachers with a community of colleagues within which to collaborate and receive support, keeping them from feeling isolated.
  • Standards-based evaluation. Some new teachers may not be ideally suited for teaching. Standards-based evaluation of all beginning teachers provides a mechanism for determining whether new teachers should move forward in the profession. To retain teachers and improve their overall quality, comprehensive induction should be accompanied by the following essential elements that create high-functioning learning communities within schools:
    • Strong principal leadership
    • High-quality providers of the induction program with dedicated staff resources
    • Additional support for new teachers with little preparation
    • Incentives for teachers to participate in induction activities
    • Alignment between induction, classroom needs, and professional standards
    • An adequate and stable source of funding

According to a report from the American Association of School Personnel Administrators, there are differences in priorities and expectations that exist among the "Greatest Generation," the Baby Boomers, Generation X, and the Millennials-all of whom exist in the workforce. It is important to consider the employee priorities and interests within different age groups when considering how to retain personnel. The Greatest Generation is motivated by security and lifelong learning. They understand salary schedules, seniority, organizational charts, and working one's way up through the system. Baby Boomers desire money, fancy titles, and a fast track to the top. Generation Xers appreciate work environment, place family ahead of career, and are comfortable changing jobs and careers. Millennials (born after 1981) desire harmony and responsibility and want meaningful and interesting work. They have a low value for company loyalty and place importance on work life balance (American Association of School Personnel Administrators, 2005).

Following the assertion that teachers who are well-prepared and well-supported will turn out students who can achieve at higher levels and meet state standards, Recruiting and Retaining Teachers for Hard-to-Staff Schools (Berry & Hirsch, 2005) describes what states can do to recruit and retain teachers in hard to staff schools. A comprehensive recruitment/retention policy includes good data systems that allow states to evaluate and refine policies and programs to recruit, train, and retain teachers. Financial incentives, working conditions, and better preparation and support are important factors in retaining good teachers. Multiple incentives are required to provide the most powerful leverage in placing teachers in hard-to-staff schools. Research supports the importance of salary and other financial incentives. However, good leadership and decision-making authority are reportedly more important than salary as factors in leading teachers to leave schools. There are numerous examples of success stories in states using the above listed incentives. These states include Mississippi, New York, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, and Arkansas.

Some examples of better preparation and support for teachers are to provide quality professional development opportunities, time to collaborate, and-for new teachers-support from mentors, as well as specialized training.

Alternative routes to traditional teacher preparation have been attempted in several states. Six characteristics have been found to be common to successful alternative training programs. These are (a) high standards and proper candidate screening; (b) solid preservice instruction in pedagogy, subject, classroom management, and child development; (c) good mentoring; (d) a period of good teaching observation and assistance in the classroom; (e) ongoing training, instruction, and reflection; and (f) continuous monitoring, evaluation, and feedback.

Retention of new teachers can be addressed by providing support through strong on the job training opportunities that include (a) opportunities to observe and analyze good teaching, (b) guidance by highly trained mentors, (c) reduced workloads to provide more time for learning, and (d) assistance in meeting licensure standards.

School districts in Tennessee, Florida, and Alabama have implemented successful incentives by combining bonuses and professional support to attract teachers too hard to staff schools. State policy makers are urged to create an array of incentives and supports that provides a menu of choices to use for recruitment and retention (Berry & Hirsch, 2005).

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