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Principals Hold Key to Teacher Retention

Recruiting and hiring teachers for schools is hard enough -- so its frustrating if teachers leave after a year or two. A Houston, Texas, principal talks about the important role a principal plays in retaining teachers. Included: Tips for retaining teachers in urban schools.

As many principals know, the only thing harder than recruiting teachers is keeping them from leaving.

The right principal, though, can be the reason that teachers stay at their schools, according to Bernell M. Petier-Glaze, principal of Highland Heights Elementary School in the Houston (Texas) Independent School District.

Teachers will gravitate to hard-to-staff urban campuses if they have a strong leader, Peltier-Glaze told an audience at the recent Association of School Curriculum Development (ASCD) conference.


Principals, especially urban principals, have their work cut out for them. Between 44 percent and 50 percent of teachers do not remain at urban campuses, according to Peltier-Glaze. Teachers are leaving because of the lack of support, she said.

One year, Peltier-Glaze started school with 65 new teachers -- out of a total staff of 75.

To help her get to know all the new teachers, she asked them at the beginning of the school year to fill out information forms about themselves, including their birthdays, and favorite colors, foods, candy, and books.

Peltier-Glaze also met with three new teachers every day until she had talked with all of them.

When they figure out that their words and decisions are valued, when they have input, then they are committed, she said.

In another gesture of welcome, one or two teachers would arrive at staff meetings to find one of the favorites -- candy, food, or book -- waiting for them. Peltier-Glaze also put thank you notes and a favorite candy bar in teacher mailboxes if she saw them do something well or do something extra.

Soon most of the teachers were staying past the 3:15 p.m. dismissal time, Peltier-Glaze said.


Strategies for retaining teachers can begin during the job interview, Peltier-Glaze continued. The questions an administrator asks a potential teacher are important in determining if the teacher will stay.

Find out why he or she chose this campus, she said. Some may not have researched the campus.

Once new teachers are hired, Peltier-Glaze continued, principals can use numerous strategies to keep them for more than a year or two, such as:

  • Assign new teachers to areas where you know they will succeed. We tend to place them not where they will succeed, but where there is need.
  • Limit the out-of-classroom responsibilities for first-year teachers.
  • Assign each new teacher a qualified mentor.
  • Develop a culture of collaborative problem-solving in the school. If they [teachers] feel they are not participating in problem-solving, they will feel diminished.

And most of all, be available to listen, she said. Because its extremely important to retain the teachers you already have, when new teachers come in and talk about issues, you really have to take the time to sit down with them.


Teacher Quality: Recruitment/Retention
The Education Commission of the States offers this policy brief.

Keeping Good Teachers: Why It Matters and What Leaders Can Do
Keeping Good Teachers is the theme of this issues of Educational Leadership. (ASCD, May 2003)

Article by Ellen R. Delisio
Education World®
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Updated 10/22/2012