School principals play an important role in whether teachers thrive and remain in their jobs or leave. In schools where the principal provides support, and allows for teacher autonomy, and clearly communicates with teachers, teachers are then less likely to leave the profession. Culture, with an emphasis on creating a culture of inclusion and belonging, and collegiality within a school are paramount in teacher satisfaction.
Opportunities for growth and extended influence are also important to teachers’ decision to stay. Teachers want opportunities to improve their practice and take on additional responsibilities. This might include teacher leadership and instructional coaching opportunities or opportunities to attend or share at conferences.
Teachers want to feel celebrated and supported. Teachers feel unappreciated and undervalued in today’s climate so taking opportunities to elevate and celebrate successes in the community is one way to promote teacher retention.
While there is a growing number of educators of color in teacher preparation programs, teachers of color leave the profession at a higher rate than white teachers (19% v. 15% annually) meaning that there is a growing shortage of educators of color. Educators of color are often one of the only people of color in their school. Their unique experiences in school are often riddled with frustration, fatigue, persistent negative interactions, and feelings of isolation. In 2015, Minnesota surveyed teachers of color to understand the obstacles that existed. They found the main reasons teachers of color left were:
- Dissatisfaction with administration;
- Dissatisfaction with test-based accountability systems;
- Lack of mentoring and support;
- Racial isolation; and
- Lack of autonomy and influence.
Interviews with educators of color also show that they face persistent racial discrimination and feel that their expertise is not valued except for in the case of discipline. As a result, they often get classrooms filled with students who have many academic and disciplinary needs and are often the resource for disciplinary needs school wide. These anecdotes of discrimination have been supported by research. A Michigan State University study found that more than 2.5 times as many educators of color received a low evaluation rating from their principal than white educators. This trend was even more pronounced when a white administrator was conducting the evaluation.
One teacher of color in a study of Minnesotan teachers captured the essence of this by writing, “You’re held under a different standard, you’re under a ton of scrutiny and you are made to feel like you don’t know what you’re doing and your education is subpar.” These inequities in support, evaluation, and assignment between groups arises from both systemic bias and individual implicit bias, which over time can compound in a multitude of ways including lower teacher salary, and fewer advancement opportunities.