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Research Spotlight on Recruitment and Retention

NEA Reviews of the Research on Best Practices in Education

Found In: teaching strategies

As the baby-boomers begin to retire and more students enter school, America faces a serious dilemma: a shortage of teachers. Yet, the research suggests that teacher retirement and an increased number of students entering school are not the primary reasons for the impending crisis. It's retaining teachers that's the greatest problem.

Over 40 percent of new teachers leave the profession within the first five years. We must address these high levels of attrition or face a projected need to fill 2.2 million vacancies by 2010.

Much of the research shows that poor working conditions and lack of on-the-job training are the root cause of this situation. Many states and school districts offer incentives, professional development (which often lacks follow-up), and increased salaries, but the reality is that the factors that determine whether a teacher remains in the profession is dictated by what happens at the school site. The school is their world, not the state or district office.

The Education Commission of the States (ECS 2005) conducted recruitment and retention research based on eight questions:

  1. What are the characteristics of those individuals who enter teaching?
  2. How do those individuals who remain in teaching compare with those who leave?
  3. What are the characteristics of schools and districts most likely to be successful in recruiting and retaining teachers?
  4. What impact do the working conditions in schools have on their ability to recruit and retain teachers?
  5. What impact does compensation have on the recruitment and retention of teachers?
  6. What impact do various strategies related to teacher preparation have on teacher recruitment and retention?
  7. What impact do induction and mentoring have on teacher retention?
  8. What is the efficacy of particular recruitment strategies and policies in bringing new teachers into the profession, including specifically targeted populations?

These questions—and their answers—must be considered by education policy makers as they prepare to address the pending teacher shortage.

To learn more, read Eight Questions on Teacher Recruitment and Retention on the ECS Web site. This report is designed to help policymakers gain a better understanding of both the nature of the teacher workforce and of promising recruitment and retention strategies. The report is also available in PDF form as

Summary (PDF icon PDF, 208 KB, 12 pgs.)

Full Report (PDF icon PDF, 519 KB, 158 pgs.

Related Links

  • Mentoring and Supporting New Teachers (PDF icon PDF, 245 KB, 13 pp) -State policymakers have directed much attention to programs aimed at recruiting new teachers but less attention to teacher attrition rates, the reasons teachers leave, and the policy strategies that could help retain them in the profession. National Governors' Association 2002.
  • Teacher Turnover, Teacher Shortages, and the Organization of Schools (PDF icon PDF, 165 KB, 40 pp) - This research suggests that a major cause of inadequate school performance is the inability of schools to adequately staff schools with qualified teachers, due to the shortage of teachers. R. M. Ingersoll, Center for the Study of Teaching and Policy, January 2001.
  • The Wrong Solution to the Teacher Shortage (PDF icon PDF, 183 KB, 6 pp) - Loss of new teachers plays a major role in the teacher shortage, but pouring more teachers into the system will not solve the retention problem. R. M. Ingersoll & Thomas M. Smith, Educational Leadership, May 2003.
  • The Workplace Matters: Teacher Quality, Retention, and Effectiveness (PDF icon PDF, 504 KB, 34 pp) -This brief describes workplace conditions in "learning centered" schools, where practices are consistent with the research about learning and its context. Its purpose is to support fundamental, long-term change by offering a vision of best practice for educators to consider, discuss, and adapt to their circumstances. Susan Moore Johnson, NEA 2006.
    Summary (PDF icon PDF, 314 KB, 6 pp).
  • Professional Community and Professional Development in the Learning-Centered School (PDF icon PDF, 527 KB, 34 pp) - Provides a research-based blueprint for teacher learning, including the goals it can serve, strategic content priorities, and effective approaches or strategies. The focus is on "learning-centered" schools where both the student and teacher are engaged in learning. Judith Warren Little, NEA 2006.
  • Using Data to Improve Teacher Induction Programs (PDF icon PDF, 70 KB, 8 pp)—"If induction programs are to help meet school staffing needs and raise the quality of teaching, they must provide comprehensive school-based support consistent with the instructional practice and school transformation models." NEA Foundation for the Improvement of Education 2002.

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