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Data Analytics

How to Combat the Teacher Shortage with Student Data

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District leaders know that their most valuable asset is their human capital. However, recruiting and retaining high quality staff remains both a top priority and a significant challenge. According to insights from the Frontline Research and Learning Institute’s K-12 Lens, hiring and retention remain high needs, with more than 60% of respondents indicating that they retained less than 90% of their staff last year (see figure 1). Compounding the K-12 human capital dilemma, a large majority of respondents also indicated that hiring has grown more challenging within the same timeframe (see figure 2).  

Retention RatePercentage of Respondents

Focusing Efforts on Retaining Staff 

As fewer individuals enter and complete teacher preparation programs, district administrators face the challenge of recruiting and hiring candidates from an ever-shrinking pipeline. Additionally, many districts now require more staff to accommodate smaller class sizes, further straining available resources. 

While district leaders may not be able to directly influence the size of the teacher candidate pool, they can impact factors crucial to teacher retention, like school climate, teacher workload, and student behavior.  

A Case for Using Student Data to Identify Teachers in Need of Support 

But what indicators should administrators track to identify teachers who may be at increased risk of turnover? Which factors are the most predictive of teacher burnout and attrition? Researchers point to a number, including several that districts already monitor, like student behaviors and other characteristics. By analyzing student data with teacher retention in mind, data savvy administrators can identify teachers who may be at increased risk of churn. Here’s how: 

At the District-Level, Use Student Data to Assess the Behavioral Climate  

“The most important organizational determinant of attrition is the behavioral climate of the school; teachers are much more likely to leave a school with disruptive, inattentive, or hostile students” (Kelly & Northrop, 2015, p. 630).  

Administrators can start their analysis at the district level to identify the schools that may benefit from improvements to their behavioral climates. See Figure 3, which displays the counts of disciplinary referrals at each of eight schools in a district. Note that Werthers Middle School and J.B. Nelson Elementary School exceed all other schools in the district for fights and classroom disruptions. Teachers at these two schools may experience more stressful work environments than those assigned to other schools within the district. 

At the School Level, Use Student Data to Confirm High Stress Environments

Focusing on schools with greater disciplinary referrals, and analyzing the data based on where these incidents occurred can help administrators determine if teachers are disproportionately affected by disruptive behaviors. For example, incidents within classrooms are likely to have a greater impact on teachers compared to those that occur on school buses. Refer to Figure 4 for a breakdown of disciplinary events by location at J.B. Nelson Elementary School and Werthers Middle School.  Note that almost 50% of disciplinary incidents occurred in the classroom setting at Werthers Middle School. 

At the Classroom Level, Use Student Data to Pinpoint Teachers in Need of Support

  1. But where are these disciplinary events occurring?
  2. Are they widespread or concentrated in just a few teachers’ classrooms?

Drilling down to the classroom level can help district leaders identify the teachers most impacted by major disruptions and then provide targeted support.

Referred By Discipline Count 
Emily Johnson 74
Michael Brown 58
Sarah Williams 51
David Davis 46
Jennifer Martinez 45
Christopher Wilson 42
Jessica Thompson 33
Matthew Garcia 31
Amanda Robinson 29
Joshua Clark 16
Samantha Lewis 11
Daniel Rodriguez 7
Rebecca Hall 4

Analyzing Student Data Can Help Boost Teacher Retention

Like any profession, job dissatisfaction and stressful working conditions are highly predictive of teacher attrition. Factors including workload and difficulties with classroom management have been found to contribute to teacher stress, burnout, and ultimately turnover. District leaders can get ahead of this cycle by monitoring student data with their staff in mind. Identifying schools within their districts with elevated disciplinary events, confirming that these events occurred within the classroom setting, and then narrowing their focus to the teachers who most frequently experience disruptive behaviors can help.

Ellen Agnello

Ellen is a graduate assistant at the University of Connecticut. She is a former high school English language arts teacher and holds a Master’s Degree in literacy education. She is working on a dissertation toward a Ph.D. in Educational Curriculum and Instruction.