Incentive, support programs may help better retain teachers

Published: Sep. 19, 2020 at 2:53 PM CDT
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MANHATTAN, Kan. (WIBW) - Research at Kansas State University has found that incentive and support programs are the most effective tools for retaining teachers.

Kansas State University says a comprehensive review of 120 national research projects over four decades has found the key to teacher retention, including early career educators and those in hard to staff areas like special needs and STEM fields, are incentive and support programs. It said equally substantive, the analysis disproved the long standing theory that performance evaluations bring teacher happiness.

Tuan D. Nguyen, an assistant professor at K-State’s College of Education, said he led the research team that published “The Correlates of Teacher Turnover: An Updated and Expanded Meta-Analysis of the Literature” in Educational Research Review, the second ranked review among educational research journals.

According to Nguyen, the meta-analysis offered new insights, highlighted underexamined factors and showed the connections between educational policy and teacher turnover.

“This crucial study examined the evidence on what drove teachers to quit the profession or move from one school to another,” Nguyen said. “It has far-reaching implications for policymakers and school administrators who are committed to reducing teacher turnover.”

K-State said the researchers discovered a great deal of evidence that showed improving school organizational characteristics like reducing student disciplinary problems, improving administrative support and supporting teacher collaborations, could reduce the risk of teacher turnover. It said despite concerns of potential negative consequences of teacher evaluation and accountability from policymakers and educators, the data did not show performance evaluations increased teacher attrition.

According to K-State, the research also showed that when teahers are evaluated making their results available, teachers are not more likely to turn over. In fact, it said the evidence showed teachers may be enticed to stay as they are provided urgency, sense of empowerment and evidence ofareas for professional improvement. It said this held true even when teacher evaluations were used to determine accountability and pay raises.

K-State said substantial evidence also showed that teachers in merit-based pay programs were less likely to leave teaching than those that were not. It said this became even more important when researchers found evaluation and accountability policies tended to be associated with keeping the most effective teachers and letting go of the least effective teachers, as measured by value added scores.

Nguyen said, in short, evaluation and strategic compensation reforms can be leveraged to improve the make up of the teacher workforce. He said increasing teacher salary was also associated with improving retention, but the effect was smaller in comparison to merit pay and retention bonuses.

“We’d like policymakers and administrators to understand that while there may be warranted concerns about teacher evaluation and accountability policies, they are more positively perceived by some teachers and have more beneficial effects than previously recognized,” Nguyen said. “These factors can be used to improve the teacher workforce and reduce turnover.”

According to the University, no grant funding supported the study.

K-State said Nguyen’s research interests include teacher leadership and school improvement, teacher policy and teacher labor market, and financial aid and postsecondary persistence.

For more information on the study, click here.

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