By now, students and educators alike have settled into the rhythm of school life. Relationships have been re-established, new ones have been formed, and teaching and learning are well underway. Although the end of the school year seems far away, a single thought may begin to weigh on school leaders: How many teachers will stay?
Educator burnout is among the most pressing issues that we, as school professionals, face. Research shows that high teacher turnover—often referred to as “churn”—reduces student achievement and cuts into precious time and resources. A report from the Learning Policy Institute (LPI) finds that, on average, urban districts can spend $20,000 on each new hire when it comes to separation, recruitment, hiring, and training.1 It’s an investment that brings little return if teachers leave after one or two years in the classroom.
The pandemic has only exacerbated our nation’s teacher shortage. Last spring, teacher retirements in Michigan were up 44 percent since August 2020.2 Last year, Long Beach Unified School District in California saw teacher leaves of absence increase by 35 percent, and fewer than half of the roughly 1,100 teachers in its substitute pool expressed a willingness to work.3
Teacher shortages will inevitably lead to school leader shortages. Now more than ever, principals and assistant principals are burning the candle at both ends, and their work is not sustainable. According to a poll NASSP released last year, 45% of principals across the country said the pandemic has accelerated their plans to leave the profession.4 Their concerns over stressful working conditions echoed findings of a previously issued report on principal turnover by NASSP and LPI. That report found that nearly 1 in 5 principals turn over each year due to inadequate professional development and preparation, poor working conditions, insufficient salaries, lack of decision-making authority, and high-stakes accountability policies.5
We have long known what school leaders need to do their jobs: more counselors, more social services, more of their voice in decision-making, more funding, and ultimately more respect. Funding that our members helped to advocate for—like the American Rescue Plan—is an excellent start, but it should be a permanent part of the education landscape—not something that educators must fight for year after year.
If we don’t provide educators more support, school leaders will walk away from the schools and communities they have ably served. I am committed, as is NASSP, to leading forward so that educators get the resources necessary to ensure that they, and their schools, succeed. Leading forward requires collaboration and support, and so does strengthening the school leader pipeline. After all, our work is incredibly rewarding but unbelievably challenging and impossible to do well alone.
- Carver-Thomas, D., & Darling-Hammond, L. (2017, August 16). Teacher turnover: Why it matters and what we can do about it. Washington, DC: Learning Policy Institute. Retrieved from bit.ly/3tXygzv
- Livengood, C. (2021, March 28). “Covid has tipped the scales”: Teacher retirements in Michigan up 44% since August. Crain’s Detroit Business. Retrieved from bit.ly/3o4AmNt
- Carver-Thomas, D., Leung, M., & Burns, D. (2021, March). California teachers and COVID-19: How the pandemic is impacting the teacher workforce. Washington, DC: Learning Policy Institute. Retrieved from bit.ly/2XLIIyt
- National Association of Secondary School Principals. (2020, August 21). “Overwhelmed” and “unsupported,” 45 percent of principals say pandemic conditions are accelerating their plans to leave the principalship. Retrieved from bit.ly/3i98HqT
- Levin, S., et al. (2020). Supporting a strong, stable principal workforce: What matters and what can be done. Washington, DC: Learning Policy Institute. Retrieved from bit.ly/3nMDgGp
Ronn K. Nozoe