More effort needed retain high-performing teachers, study finds

A new study from TNTP finds that urban schools are systematically neglecting their best teachers, and documents a national failure to retain enough of the best teachers

The report, titled The Irreplaceables (PDF), focuses on the experiences teachers so successful at advancing student learning that they are nearly impossible to replace. Schools rarely make a strong effort to keep these teachers despite their success.

Because of this, the best and worst teachers leave urban schools at strikingly similar rates. The nation’s 50 largest districts lose approximately 10,000 of these high-performing teachers each year. Meanwhile, about 40 percent of teachers with more than seven years of experience are less effective at advancing academic progress than the average first-year teacher.

The study attributes negligent retention patterns to three major causes:

1. Inaction by school principals. The study shows that less than 30 percent of high-performing teachers plan to leave for reasons beyond their school’s control. Simple strategies, like public recognition for a job well done, boost their plans to stay by as many as six years. Yet two-thirds indicated that no one had encouraged them to return for another year.

2. Poor school cultures and working conditions. Schools that retain more high-performing teachers have strong cultures where teachers work in an atmosphere of mutual respect, leaders respond to poor performance, and great teaching is the priority. Turnover rates among the best teachers were 50 percent higher in schools lacking these traits.

3. Policies that impede smarter retention practices. A number of policy barriers hamper principals from making smarter retention decisions. Because of inflexible, seniority-dominated compensation systems, for example, 55 percent of these high-performing teachers earn a lower salary than the average low-performing teacher.

The report offers two major recommendations to policymakers and school leaders to help change these barriers to keeping high-performing teachers. The authors suggest making retention of the best teachers a top priority by monitoring and improving working conditions, paying teachers what they’re worth and creating new pathways for advancing their careers. They also suggest expecting high levels of performance from teachers and reconsidering hiring and firing practices to encourage high-performers and counsel out low-performers.

Read the full report here (PDF).

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  1. Jim Scott July 31, 2012

    You overlooked a MAJOR reason that teachers are leaving the profession—and why teaching is having problems drawing young people into it as a career: Hatred of Teachers.

    And, candidly, the well funded “League of Education Voters” is one of the groups that has encouraged a climate of distrust, hyper-criticism and vilification against the people who are responsible for teaching our children.

    If you doubt what I’m saying, please go to almost any blog or comments section, focused on some aspect of public education, anywhere on the web, and watch the hatred almost sizzle on the screen.

    It’s vile. And I never use that word lightly. If you say you were absolutely unaware of this, I’m incredulous. Anyone even scanning such blogs would have to know about the absolute vilification of our teachers.

    I don’t accuse LEV, nor anyone associated with them, of writing such egregious and hateful comments. I do know that if my young son were to read some of these, he’d be quite upset, as would most of his classmates. While he likes some of his teachers better than others, he still considers them the closest thing to family members; and while certain aunts and uncles are favored at any given time, he’s loyal to all of them.

    And he feels the same way about his teachers. His school works, because it’s a community; not a “Race To The Top” (of exactly “what”, one should ask.)

    Again, I will spare you the many examples of pathological, obsessive teacher loathing that is everywhere on the web. Even Governors are encouraging it, in an almost gleeful way:

    I don’t think anyone associated with LEV would engage in this type of slander and vilification against our educators. It’s true that none of us can be responsible for the words or actions of others. However, LEV has, unfortunately been completely silent as this vicious attacks increase and escalate.

    If you condemned this outrageous and truly odious attacks on our teachers, it would be at least one indication of your group’s sincerity.

    Again, LEV isn’t responsible for these attacks on our teachers. But your silence speaks volumes. It’s very disappointing that LEV has not issued one single word of criticism to separate themselves from this sickening words. Why is that?

    • Jim G November 14, 2012

      You seem to be mistaking dislike and distrust of the teacher’s union with dislike and distrust for teachers. The two are not the same.


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