Photo of teacher and student California State University Teacher Preparation Program Wordmark
October 2008
Volume 1 - Issue 3
Photo of young student reading

"Teachers who are happy with their position and tend to stay state some very clear reasons."

Key Factors in Teacher Retention

In this day of declining teacher supply and growing retirements, it is exciting to learn that positive steps can be taken to encourage teacher retention.  The Center for Teacher Quality, a California State University program, has published the results of a two-year study to determine why teachers tend to stay and why they become dissatisfied and leave.  The resulting knowledge is a gold mine for open minded and aggressive school site and district administrators.

Teachers who are happy with their position and tend to stay state some very clear reasons.  They have a supportive principal and a sense of belonging to a team.  They are empowered with decision making authority and enjoy close professional relationships on the job.  They work in an environment that allows them to make a difference in student’s lives.

When these conditions do not exist and the teacher finds bureaucratic impediments, poor district support, low staff morale, and an unsupportive principal, they tend to leave.  Not hard to understand.  So what can be done to improve the work place?

The Center for Teacher Quality has half a dozen recommendations and some of them can be applied directly at the school site and district levels:

Assess teaching conditions locally and continuously.
To fully understand the problems teachers face in particular schools, the teachers themselves must be asked and must be asked often.  Surveys and/or focus groups should be conducted regularly and continuously with all staff, including principals, to assess the quality of the teaching conditions in the school and district.

Refocus school leadership on instructional quality and high-quality teaching and learning conditions.
School Leaders will be most effective at improving student learning by focusing their attention equally on the quality of instruction and the quality of the school’s teaching and learning conditions.  Managing the work environment is no less essential to the success of the school than the functions provided by an effective instructional leader.  Nor are they less demanding or complex or even separate from the instructional role.  The two roles are positively reinforcing, with one leading directly to the other and back.

The study’s author, Dr. Ken Futernick, has produced the definitive document and the CSU has made his work available on-line.  The entire retention study has been published as A Possible Dream Retaining California Teachers So All Students Can Learn”.  Key findings, recommendations and the complete study are available via the Internet at