Factors influencing teacher retention begin as early as the interviewing stage, if not earlier, according to a study of new teachers in Boston.
The study, prepared by the Boston Plan for Excellence in Public Schools, tracked the experiences and career plans of 470 new teachers in Boston during the 2002-03 school year. It is meant to give Boston public schools concrete information on its teacher-hiring and -retention systems.
The researchers found that, on average, teachers who felt certain they would return to Boston schools gave higher ratings on how well their school’s hiring process had prepared them for the school’s professional culture, administrative standards, and student needs.
Similarly, the report shows that teachers’ general sense of job-preparedness had an effect on their employment plans. “New teachers who reported feeling especially unprepared for some aspect of their position were significantly more likely to predict a shorter tenure in their current position,” the study notes. The teachers most commonly felt unprepared in connection with classroom-management and student-behavior issues.
Echoing the observations of other studies and commentators, the study also found that teachers who felt their schools didn’t respond to their needs or give them good support in their jobs “were much more likely to plan to leave their positions than teachers who felt well-supported.”
To give candidates a greater “breadth of perspectives about their potential schools,” the report recommends that schools more actively involve current teachers in the interview process and ensure that applicants get to visit classrooms and observe students. It also provides data suggesting that student teaching in the same school may be beneficial.
The researchers recommend strengthening school-based support and professional-development systems to give new teachers better grounding. “District-led programs to support new teachers are important,” the report notes, “but our data and data from research indicate that the conditions and opportunities at their school are the most powerful influences on their staying in the profession.”
Regarding human resources processes, the report advises Boston school officials to make structural changes to avoid late hiring and to implement an applicant-tracking system to better coordinate and leverage applicant and hiring information.