How to Stop Teacher Turnover from Costing You Money

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Teacher retention is a real concern in today’s schools, and the problem is only getting worse. The issues with teacher turnover include not just the difficulty of finding new teachers to replace the ones who are leaving, but also the extraordinary cost incurred when teachers leave their jobs. Teacher turnover is expensive -- to the tune of $20,000(!) per teacher, according to this report -- and with the budget shortages common in today’s school systems, this is one expense that is both unwelcome and unnecessary. In order to retain teachers and stop costing schools money that could be put toward other critical needs, we have to look to a practical, proven solution—providing regular instructional coaching to give teachers the support and development they deserve. With the proper support, recognition, and encouragement, teachers are able to see the classroom as a place where they can build a career that’s both challenging and rewarding.

Teacher Turnover: A Troubling Trend

School districts across the country are facing growing teacher shortages that are disrupting school communities and hurting student outcomes. Of the ever-increasing nationwide demand for teachers, 90% stems from when teachers leave the profession, making teacher turnover by far the single biggest factor in our schools’ shortage of educators. What’s more, up to 30% of teachers leave within their first five years, before they become highly effective teachers, making a bad situation even worse. There are two primary reasons most commonly cited by teachers as their motives for leaving: About 51% of teachers reported the desire for more manageable workloads and 53% cited better working conditions as primary reasons for their departure.

The Costs Associated With Teacher Turnover

High teacher turnover rates don’t just hurt the academic outcomes of students. They also cost schools a lot of money in wasted resources. How much money? The total cost of the revolving door of teacher turnover nationwide is conservatively estimated to be a staggering $7.3 billion per year for public schools, and almost a billion dollars a year for private and charter schools.

This breaks down to about $21,000 per teacher. That amount of money is not recouped if a teacher leaves their school after fewer than five years on the job. The sky-high estimated cost of teachers leaving is calculated purely on the school level and does not include the cost of teachers who move within a school district, or any state or federal investments that are lost. This means the total cost we spend on this issue yearly is even higher than the amount estimated.

How Teacher Coaching Reduces Turnover

After reading through all of these statistics, you’re probably eager to learn about an effective solution to this pressing problem. With teachers reporting more manageable workloads and better working conditions as their main reasons for quitting, the solution lies in addressing these two primary concerns.

The Gallup Q12 survey, long the standard-bearer for measuring employee engagement, includes the following question as part of its survey:  “Is there someone at work who encourages your development?” For far too long, teachers have been left on their own to navigate the complex emotional and instructional waters of classroom leadership.  Alongside other measures of engagement, encouraging development by providing feedback (as opposed to the sit-and-get PD) communicates not just a commitment to development, but a commitment to personalized development.  That makes all the difference.

When leaders provide teachers the consistent support and feedback they deserve, teachers can see their practice improving and often feel more on top of their workloads. This can take the form of principal feedback through classroom observations and coaching meetings, peer observations, and many other coaching touchpoints between faculty members that create a schoolwide culture of growth through feedback.

In addition to in the moment coaching, by establishing a regular coaching cycle, school leaders can track and analyze teacher progress throughout the school year to better align in-school professional development directly to teachers’ growth needs in order to responsively improve classroom outcomes. And, increasing the touchpoints between administrators and teachers organically creates an open dialogue about working conditions and ideas for improvement that go beyond instructional outcomes.

Beyond creating a supportive environment where teachers feel physically comfortable and positively challenged in their work, regular feedback and coaching builds relationships between teachers and their administration, making teachers feel like a valued part of their school community. Learn more about Whetstone’s teacher observation platform and start optimizing your school district through instructional coaching.