A publication of the Association of California School Administrators
A publication of the Association of California School Administrators
How to keep ’em once you get ’em
Retaining new teachers
By Helene Cunningham and Joanne Chan | May | June 2024
Retaining new teachers is not merely about recruitment and retention. It also includes providing a robust, high-quality mentoring system in induction programs, collaboration across departments, professional development opportunities, understanding generational gaps and incentives school districts offer to attract and retain teachers. What makes teachers want to stay at a school or district depends on how new members of the team are supported and what type of educator pipeline these staff members have access to during their experience in said district.
First of all, there’s been a teacher shortage on both the national and state level for years, which was worsened by the COVID pandemic. The impact is still being felt, as we lose more educators from the teaching profession. We still have not recovered. California Gov. Gavin Newson invested $3.5 billion in the educator workforce in his 2024 state budget proposal.
Moreover, “The state had a 16 percent decline in the issuance of teacher credentials” (EdSource, June, 2023). “Interest in the teaching profession among high school seniors and college freshman has fallen 50 percent since the 1990s, and 38 percent since 2010, according to a study published last year. As a result, enrollment in teacher-preparation programs has declined, and schools across the country are experiencing teacher shortages.” (Education Week, Nov. 28, 2023) Therefore, fewer people are entering the profession.
Workforce shortages require a strategic recruitment approach. Education leaders must focus on the factors within their control and remove internal practices that create barriers in the ability to hire. In continued recognition of the teacher shortage, the governor’s budget released in January 2024 includes credentialing flexibilities that improve access to the teacher pipeline. To improve teacher preparation, the completion of a bachelor’s degree would satisfy the basic skills requirement. The governor is also calling for improved transcript review services to certify subject matter competency. This, in turn, will streamline the credentialing application process and reduce testing costs for teacher candidates.
In July 2023, Newsom signed SB 114, granting an exemption to preliminary teaching credential holders affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, relieving them from completing a Teaching Performance Assessment. They are exempt as long as they either completed a teacher induction program approved by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing or demonstrated two years of service with satisfactory teacher evaluations by June 30, 2025. However, candidates are still obligated to pass the Reading Instruction Competence Assessment (RICA) for a clear credential recommendation under the Executive Order/AB 130 flexibilities. While RICA remains mandatory, the state provides fee waivers to candidates, contingent upon fund availability. This initiative by the governor aims to prevent further exacerbation of the teacher shortage caused by the pandemic. Furthermore, the Hacienda La Puente Unified School District Teacher Induction Program (HLPUSD TIP), an approved program commission sponsor, provides a cost-free, two-year job-embedded induction program for new teachers. In collaboration with the Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment department, HLPUSD TIP has been offering RICA office hour support and seminars for candidates who require assistance with the assessment. In 2025, California will replace the RICA with a literacy performance assessment.
“Phases of First-Year Teaching” by Ellen Moir of the New Teacher Centre at Santa Cruz, 1999
Effective districts put measures in place to help new teachers avoid isolation and burnout. The chart above demonstrates the emotions new teachers feel throughout their first year on the job. This validates the importance of ongoing mentor and program support. It also shows that adults need social-emotional learning support as well as students.
Effective organizations work purposely across divisions and departments to offer ongoing support through professional learning opportunities, mentors and aligning observation and formal evaluation to the six California Standards for the Teaching Profession (CSTP). In Hacienda La Puente USD, we base formal observations and evaluations on these standards, so there are shared expectations.
New hires must be treated as professional educators. New teachers need to be able to put the theories studied in their teacher education programs into practice with educational partners. With successful teacher induction programs, new teachers can better understand state standards, frameworks, district initiatives, demonstration lessons, pedagogical practices, culturally responsive leadership, learning environments and how to leverage digital resources in an ever-changing global world.
When contemplating strategies to attract employees, it is important to probe institutional knowledge to see the district’s history of recruitment and retention. Many districts participate in job fairs, both in person and online, to diversify the teacher workforce. They advertise hiring timelines via social media and websites. Some districts also conduct exit interviews, including surveys, to get feedback from employees who are leaving the organization for a variety of reasons. It is crucial to seek resolutions to address recruitment and retention issues for both certificated and classified staff. These strategies help identify challenges and monitor continuous improvement.
Collaboration and the success of TIP
Districts that house their own induction programs help ensure success for their teacher candidates through collaboration and cooperation on the vision and goals that include regular coaching by carefully selected and trained mentors and personalized learning integrated with school and district goals. There are shared expectations with rubrics that elicit outcomes based on needs. Self-reflection and self-assessment, utilized on the Continuum of Teaching Practice, also help teacher candidates recognize their professional growth and determine the support required to achieve professional goals outlined in their Individual Learning Plan. This plan is grounded on the six CSTPs and aims to guide candidates in clearing their preliminary credential.
Education Services works closely with Human Resources to identify eligible new teachers, share relevant data and facilitate communication with staff, site administrators, mentors and new teachers. TIP program leaders work diligently to match a mentor based on grade level, credentials, and subject or content area, when possible, within 30 days of program enrollment. The full-release Teachers on Special Assignment (TOSA) and part-time classroom teachers work as mentors with content specialists, directors and other TOSAs to plan professional learning experiences across content areas for academic, behavioral and social-emotional learning. They provide strategies to address classroom culture, climate and routine management.
Based on data analysis of student outcomes, the induction program is designed to meet the individual learning needs of each credential candidate. The induction staff and mentors work with new teacher candidates to recognize what is needed to increase student academic progress. Regular mentoring, engaging in induction activities and other district PD experiences contribute to candidates’ growth of professional expertise. However, each credential candidate may have additional needs of coaching and training in particular areas to meet the diverse needs of students. Across district departments, time is planned to meet, create PD and implement new teacher support on an ongoing basis.
Another crucial aspect of program coordination is the Advisory Board Committee, comprised of representatives from Institutions of Higher Education, principals, district administrators, teacher union president and mentors. Additionally, a robust partnership is established with the New Teacher Center, a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to enhancing student learning by accelerating the effectiveness of new teachers nationwide. Candidates and mentors leverage the tools and collaborate on the ILP through the center. The available data provides valuable insights into the induction program, aiding program leaders to make informed decisions on relevant PD offerings. These diverse voices provide invaluable perspectives on program design, implementation and effectiveness. Collectively, these communications with educational partners facilitate engagement opportunities that provide valuable insight to enhance overall quality.
Ongoing professional development
Retaining effective employees includes professional learning opportunities for teachers, classified staff and administrators, who need to know what to look for in the classroom. Successful TIPs bring evidence-based research and PD not only to new teachers, but also to mentors and the management team.
PD is provided to mentors and candidates in the program. Additional growth opportunities are sponsored and facilitated by the Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Department. In addition, the induction program offers PD in areas not otherwise addressed. Professional development providers (PDP) for the induction seminars are expert district teachers, district program specialists, counselors, mentors and administrators. Selection is based on demonstrated expertise, background and knowledge in the subject area and presentation skills. Induction leadership staff assists PDPs to understand the overall induction program through an orientation and collaborative planning each seminar. PDPs assume responsibility for advancing the knowledge and skills of candidates and mentors, expanding their repertoire of effective instructional strategies. Selection criteria ensure PDPs are supportive of all program goals.
A robust district PD calendar ensures opportunities for professional growth throughout the school year, during summer academies, via conferences outside the organization, as well as by bringing in consultants. PD models of “one and done” or “spray and pray” do not bring forth the same gains as ongoing PD. Ongoing sessions can be held in-person, virtually, in Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), at staff meetings, by department, at grade-level meetings, in small groups or 1:1, allowing new teachers to reflect and grow over time. Statewide, there are six California Teacher Induction Clusters, similar to ACSA regions, that also provide support for induction programs. Training includes, but is not limited to, lesson studies, student data analysis, leadership, classroom management and how to design learning experiences for students as actively engaged learners.
What makes teachers want to stay at a school or district depends on how new members of the team are supported and what type of educator pipeline these staff members have access to during their experience in said district.
Bridging generational gaps New hires consist of young adults as well as educators entering the profession later in life, or as a second career. Bridging generational gaps consists of understanding how adults from different generations learn. How employees feel they are treated and supported impacts recruitment and retention. Regardless of age, many new teachers hired during the pandemic did not have traditional student teaching experiences with opportunities to teach in person. During teacher preparation programs, they didn’t have the chance to put theory into practice. Thus, it is imperative for districts to give new teachers ongoing support across content, in diverse environments and on best first instruction. On top of that, distance learning throughout the pandemic shifted teacher preparation needs, especially utilizing technology. All educators had to pivot and learn how to make distance learning work for both teaching and learning. Even veteran teachers learned how to conduct Zoom lessons and make experiences engaging for students with cameras turned on and a newfound communication between school and home. Many teachers retired from the profession during the pandemic, so they would not have to learn how to teach in this new online setting with so much change. Social-emotional learning for adults (as well as students) also became the norm, with people asking for grace and patience as they learned how to lead in a remote classroom without walls. District offerings beyond compensation The majority of school districts in California continue to face declining enrollment. Fewer students equate to fewer teachers. So, retaining effective teachers, who have been heavily invested in over time with resources, PD and ongoing support, is a goal statewide. District superintendents and their teams work with school boards to recognize and approve strategies, incentives and programs that help recruit and retain staff. Some school districts offer probationary status, rather than a temporary contract, for hard-to-fill positions. Others offer to fund supplemental authorization credentials, such as Bilingual Education and Computer Science. When a district pays for a teacher’s induction program, it not only saves teacher candidates thousands of dollars, but they are also provided weekly mentoring support to fulfill state requirements. Some mentors meet with TIP candidates more frequently depending on individual teacher needs. New teachers are provided resources to help with the two-year program that prepares them to clear their credential. Districts also pay the mentors for their time to support new teachers. Teachers enrolled in single-district induction programs have the benefit of attending sessions close to work, in addition to not having to pay out of pocket. Moreover, mentors understand the culture and climate of the organization and can onboard teacher candidates, guiding them to successfully complete the induction journey. Creating a pipeline to recruit and retain To face the national and state teacher shortage, educational leaders must take action. Once new hires join the district team, how does the culture onboard them? Districts must make sure new teachers feel welcomed, supported and included. Throughout the program, as services are provided to new teachers, program leaders ask teacher candidates what types of support they need throughout the two-year TIP. Ongoing monitoring helps to assess the needs of new teachers, the quality and effectiveness of induction programs, and provides data analysis for continuous improvement. Once a school district has invested time, resources, funding, training and mentoring for new teachers, they want to keep their new hires. The priority is to retain new teachers through the induction program and beyond, in order for them to continue to make a positive impact on teaching and student learning. If employees are exiting the organization, why are they leaving? Declining enrollment causes districts to lose their most recently hired teachers, who are lowest on the seniority list. Frequently, these are professionals with technology expertise, experience with social media, new ways of communicating with younger generations, and the energy to try new strategies or programs. Yet, if low on the proverbial totem pole, they must go. Others leave for various reasons, including higher compensation, distance from home to work, a promotional position, a more flexible schedule or personal burnout. Some have shared that poor school or district leadership caused them to look elsewhere. In addition, Hacienda La Puente USD offers an ACSA Clear Administrative Credential Program (CACP) to support administrators in their new leadership role, so they can prepare teachers to become future leaders and students for success beyond K-12. Many experts suggest that districts should conduct exit interviews to gain perspectives and feedback about why employees leave the organization. In fact, starting this school year in 2023-24, “California is to require teacher exit surveys as focus on retention and recruitment grows” (k12dive.com, Oct. 6, 2022). Regardless of recruitment and retention numbers, school districts need a strategic plan and an intentional approach to support teachers, classified staff and administrators systemically, so they, in turn, can support students. Invest in people, the human capital, and they will invest years of their educational career working together to have a positive impact on students and for each other in an effective, collaborative culture. If districts proactively take the necessary steps, they can expect a positive growth trajectory on their new teacher retention rate. Creating a pipeline and supporting staff in these ways motivates the workforce to want to stay and make a difference in the organization, so that once you get ’em, you can keep ’em. References Lambert, Diana. EdSource, Number of new california teacher credentials declines after seven years of increases, June 8, 2023. Merod, Anna. k12dive.com, California to require teacher exit survey as focus on retention, recruitment grows, October 6, 2022. Moir, Ellen. Phases of First-Year Teaching chart, New Teacher Centre, Santa Cruz, 1999. Will, Madeline. EducationWeek, What slogan would you use to recruit teachers? Educators weigh in, November 28, 2023. Helene Cunningham, Ph.D., is director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, P-12, at Hacienda La Puente USD, and an adjunct professor at Concordia University, Irvine. Joanne Chan is coordinator, Education Services, Teacher Induction Program Leader and a Local Program Coordinator in ACSA’s Clear Administrative Credential Program for Hacienda La Puente USD. She is also adjunct professor at Charter College of Education, Cal State University, Los Angeles.