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What Influences Teacher Retention?

Attracting and retaining quality teachers is essential to improving student achievement. But what factors are mostly likely to influence retention? Researcher Andrew Johnston of the University of California, Merced, found some answers in Teacher Preferences, Working Conditions, and Compensation Structure, which documents his survey of 1,000 teachers from the Aldine Independent School District. The Houston-area district serves more than 69,000 students, 77 percent of whom are eligible for free or reduced-priced meals.

 The survey—which assessed teacher preferences regarding their contracts, payment and benefits, and working conditions—found that having a principal who supports teachers with disruptive students was the most valued factor, rated as high as a 17 percent increase in salary. That finding indicates this may be an important retention tool for teachers at underserved, low achieving schools. Teachers valued salary increases as much as health insurance benefits, according to his paper. In terms of class size, teachers rated a $5,950 salary increase as highly as a reduction of 10 students.

 Johnston also found that teachers prefer more portable retirement contribution plans, such as a 401K plan, and performance-based evaluation criteria, though not exclusive use of value-added measures. Highly rated teachers were more likely than others to value merit pay options. Johnston argues that policymakers should identify the qualities that attract and retain high quality teachers and design compensation  systems to accommodate those preferences.

By Caroline Berner