RTI uses cookies to offer you the best experience online. By clicking “accept” on this website, you opt in and you agree to the use of cookies. If you would like to know more about how RTI uses cookies and how to manage them please view our Privacy Policy here. You can “opt out” or change your mind by visiting: http://optout.aboutads.info/. Click “accept” to agree.


3 Strategies to Address K-12 Teacher Recruitment and Retention

Group of male and female educators walking in school hallway

Making decisions around how best to serve students while facing the challenges of K–12 education is more complex than ever. Educators are often overwhelmed and overworked, grappling with a national teacher shortage, larger class sizes, and complex student social and emotional challenges. 

In addition, education systems across the country continue to wrestle with learning loss resulting from the pandemic. Students in many schools are still catching up. In some of the hardest-hit areas of the nation, students have suffered as much as 1.5 years of learning loss.

Educators and school leaders must rely on concrete, actionable research to diagnose the problems they face and find solutions to solve their most pressing challenges.

Tackling Teacher Recruitment and Retention

The chief challenge facing administrators is hiring teachers who are well prepared—and getting them to stay in these positions. Interest in entering the teaching profession has been declining for years, largely due to low teacher pay. COVID-19 compounded the challenges in recruiting and retaining motivated and well-prepared teachers, and remote learning resulted in many educators retiring or leaving the profession. 

Many schools continue to report vacancies and significant turnover. With a shrinking pool of candidates, some schools and districts have resorted to filling vacant positions with teachers who do not have the proper qualifications or certification, leaving instructors underprepared to teach content adequately and meet curriculum standards. This leaves school districts wondering how they can identify and retain qualified teachers while holding schools to a reasonable level of accountability. 

Here are three strategies to help with teacher recruitment and retention in your schools and districts, based on our experiences working with K-12 educators:

Strategy 1: Use School Improvement Strategies to Address Teacher Recruitment and Retention 

School improvement strategies are one approach to recruit and retain teachers successfully. Schools that are proven to be on a trajectory for improvement will attract a stronger applicant pool. 

School districts can ensure that their schools are on the path to continuous improvement by establishing systems and structures that provide sustainable support, especially to beginning teachers. Those who have been teaching for 5 years or less leave the profession at a rate that is 2.5 times that of their counterparts. To stem this tide, educators need direct support to improve instructional quality and understand how they can better manage their classrooms.

Instructional rounds, a way for educators to collaborate to improve instruction, can be used as a school improvement strategy that is based on collective teacher efficacy. In Vance Middle School in Henderson, North Carolina, RTI is partnering with the district to strengthen collective teacher efficacy around learning loss. We meet with administration first to provide professional learning on instructional rounds and identify a problem of practice that could use improvement. Teachers engage in the process by identifying a grade level focus aligned with the problem of practice. Classroom observations are conducted to provide feedback. Feedback is debriefed with teachers and next steps are established that prescribe teacher actions for improvement. Subsequent rounds measure the implementation of prescribed teacher behaviors.

Teachers in the same grade level also visit each other’s classrooms to weigh in on perceived challenges and find solutions to improve their instruction. This feedback is used to develop tangible solutions to improve student outcomes. 

Improvement is not a one-time solution; it is a process that takes time. This cycle of continuous improvement is designed to observe teachers, provide feedback, tweak practices, and then repeat the process continually. 

Strategy 2: Address Teacher Compensation and Support through Micro-Credentialing

Teachers have the biggest impact on student success; however, with teacher shortages in more than three quarters of states, schools must take action to ensure that students are adequately equipped to succeed. 

Professional development through micro-credentialing—a system of professional learning aligned with high quality instructional standards that provides personalized professional learning opportunities for all teachers—is one strategy to provide this support. But how do schools and districts incorporate an ongoing system of support into their culture to meet students’ individual needs better? 

Creating a positive school culture—one that has a proven track record of support for teachers—is critical to attracting and retaining good teachers. That starts within the school, with teachers who have the support they need to grow as professionals. 

Strategy 3: Rethink Education to Create a Positive School Culture

One final strategy is to focus on creating a positive school culture. Through the Rethink Education Program, a North Carolina Department of Public Instruction initiative, we are empowering educators to use what they learned from responding to COVID-19 to rethink how education is delivered and improve their classrooms.

We are working closely with schools in primarily economically disadvantaged communities recovering from learning loss to address their teacher recruitment and retention challenges using strategies like blended learning (a solution that combines the strengths of face-to-face teaching and online learning), family and community engagement, and leadership development, all with the goal of creating a more positive school culture.

By getting school communities the training and support they need, they can better meet the unique needs of their students. Further, with a positive school culture that focuses on continuous improvement, teacher recruitment and retention will organically follow, and more teachers will become interested in getting on board.

Improving educational outcomes in your school or district can feel overwhelming, but we are here to help. Download our School Improvement White Paper now to learn how you can get started.

Disclaimer: This piece was written by Brian Corey (Educational Consultant) to share perspectives on a topic of interest. Expression of opinions within are those of the author or authors.