The Principal's Role in Teacher Retention: Learning through Reflective Analysis
Matt, Karen Turner
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High rates of teacher attrition are costly – not only in dollars and cents, but in terms of student achievement and organizational health (Keigher, 2010). Years of research conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics from 1988 - 2013 indicate that teachers move to a different school or leave the profession for a number of reasons including retirement, family concerns, poor working conditions and overall job dissatisfaction. The most impactful of these working conditions is principal leadership. Principals must create ideal circumstances for teachers if they want to avoid replacing these professionals within a few short years. One critical way principals can support teachers is through quality instructional leadership. Communication, availability, teacher placement, empowerment, and leadership style are all essential to quality leadership. A second impactful step includes comprehensive new teacher induction which includes orientation, continued professional development and a well-chosen, appropriately trained mentor. This study is a mixed-methods reflective analysis guided by Schön’s model of reflective practice (1983) and Kolb’s model of experiential learning (1984). Numerous studies conducted through organizations such as the CALDER Institute, MetLife and the National Center for Education Statistics have explored reasons for high rates of teacher attrition. Some of these studies have also explored the principal’s role in teacher retention. These results, however, are often difficult for principals to make specific to their work. School leaders may feel the data simply do not translate to their schools, or they may have inaccurate ideas of how they are perceived by the teachers they supervise. Data sources for this study include (1) descriptive statistics from the School and Staffing Teacher Follow-up Survey, which is available in the public domain, (2) summaries from an individual school district’s exit interviews, which is archival data from the school district, (3) case studies from teachers no longer in the profession, which are published works in the public domain, and (4) personal reflections regarding my own history and practices. Exploration of the perceived discrepancy between my intent and accomplishment followed by an investigation of alternate ways of thinking and acting provided the knowledge I need to transform the way I support teachers as a means of encouraging them to continue in the profession. Ideally, this study will not only change my personal practices and impact the school I lead, but it will also influence others who are currently leading schools or plan to do so in the future.