Recruitment & Retention: A Two-fold Approach to Overcoming Teacher Shortages

Human Resources


Every year, sixteen percent of educators leave their school, and half of those teachers leave the profession altogether. That turnover puts administrators in a hard place: it can cost up to $18,000 to replace a teacher in a large urban district, and recruiting qualified teachers can be a nightmare — especially for positions like STEM or special education.

So, when it comes to overcoming the teacher shortage, it’s not enough to recruit more applicants. You have to hire the right people and keep them around. Otherwise, you might end up with a revolving door of new teachers — an expensive problem that ultimately harms student achievement.

It’s time to stop the teacher shortage in its tracks by taking a retention-first approach to teacher recruitment. Here’s how.

  Gather information.

First and foremost, determine where your school district stands by gathering as much data as possible. Exit surveys are a good tool for gathering feedback on why employees leave, but you can gain even more insight by conducting employee engagement and stay surveys as well. Get a deep understanding of how your staff feel about working in your schools and their reasons for staying — or leaving, as the case may be. Make sure to collect feedback from new employees too, especially on their experiences with onboarding.

  Review your school's retention strategies.

Once you have plenty of employee feedback in hand, compare it to the policies and strategies already in place throughout your school district. Identify areas needing improvement in your district’s retention tactics and recognize which initiatives are wildly successful. Then, look for ways to highlight your district’s strengths and shore up any gaps in your game plan.

  Upgrade your school's hiring and onboarding processes.

Hiring and onboarding go hand-in-hand with retention. A positive applicant experience, streamlined hiring, and stress-free onboarding all help new employees get started with a fantastic first impression. This is one area where technology can help immensely.

In addition, ensure that your onboarding procedures support a welcoming, collaborative work environment where employees feel confident and prepared for their first day. This might mean building up your school district’s mentoring program or holding more events for new hires to make them feel welcome.

   Develop recruitment efforts focused on retention.

Now it’s time to talk about recruiting. Explore your district’s data and discover where your most promising applicants come from. And if possible, review connections between recruiting and retention data — where do you tend to find candidates who are most likely to stick around for a long career in your district? Then, direct your efforts toward those resources.

Be sure that your teacher recruiting efforts highlight how your district supports educators, too. This is a good time to channel your inner Rick Astley and make candidates understand that you’ll never give them up or let them down.

  Celebrate your successes.

Throughout this, don’t forget to take a moment and recognize your achievements. The teacher shortage can be stressful, but you can find a way to overcome it and help your school district accomplish even more.

“Do not look at the teacher shortage as an obstacle. Challenge yourself that it's an opportunity. We created the employee wellness program as a "do it yourself" program on pennies. We have increased engagement and productivity, and we've had some outstanding results with retaining our first-year teachers. It went up from 69% to 86% just in Year One, so I say it can be done. You just have to dig in and get to the hard work, and you have to be an active recruiter, not passive.”  – Andy Koenigs, Associate Superintendent of Human Resources, Emporia Unified School District

About Annie Grunwell

Education Writer

Annie is a Content Marketing Specialist at Frontline Education with a deep and abiding love of learning, writing, and sharing knowledge.