Administrator Tips for Teacher Retention: Ways Schools Can Prevent Teacher Burnout

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Across the US, teacher retention rates have been sinking[1] for the past several years, leading to teacher shortages and lower student performance. Many individuals and organizations that operate in the educational field believe that a primary factor[2] in these low figures is teacher burnout.

A mid-2014 report[3] by the Alliance for Excellent Education found that about half a million teachers leave the profession every year. That’s an attrition rate of about 20%, compared to just 9% in 2009. According to the same study, this constant cycle of teachers coming and going costs school districts over $2.2 billion per year.

While it might seem like the obvious solution, higher pay is not always the answer. Several researchers have suggested that a positive school climate and a degree of autonomy are more effective at decreasing a school’s teacher burnout rate than pay raises[4].

Here are some tips for administrators to help schools avoid teacher burnout and improve teacher retention rates.

Reduce Teacher Burnout with Mental Health Resources

A Huffington Post article[5] summarizing a Gallup report[6] on the “State of American Schools” noted that half of teachers reported daily stress, while nearly 70 percent did not feel engaged with their work. One way that school administrations can help teachers deal with work-related stress is by offering mental health resources. Add “mental health days” to the faculty’s bank of vacation/sick days, and encourage teachers to use them as time to rest and recharge. It’s also helpful to provide support services such as informational resources, classes, and seminars about stress management and how to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Improve Teacher Retention by Giving Them a Voice

One of the biggest frustrations[7] teachers report is feeling a lack of autonomy, in their classrooms and in the larger school environment. To combat these concerns, offer opportunities for teachers to get involved in the decision-making process for various topics around the school—including those that directly and indirectly affect their jobs.

Provide open lines of communication—between individual teachers, departments, and administrators. Additionally, it can be helpful to establish anonymous ways for teachers to deliver feedback as well; this can help school administrators get information that is critical, but which might not have been reported if a teacher wasn’t comfortable having his or her name attached to it.

Another proactive way to give teachers a voice in your school is through teacher surveys. The results from these surveys can help inform the leadership in the schools and districts about teacher perceptions, concerns, and evaluations of everything from school climate and leadership to the overall teaching and learning experience.

Create a Positive School Climate and Educational Environment

Another primary factor[8] contributing to teacher stress and burnout is a negative or neutral school climate. Counteract this by encouraging teachers to work together and support one another academically, professionally, and socially. Establish environments where collaboration is promoted and positively reinforced. One way to do this is to have teachers share success stories or recent classroom “wins” during staff meetings.

By taking proactive steps towards developing a positive school climate, you can improve not only your teacher retention rate, but also increase student achievement and success.

Avoid Teacher Burnout by Providing Extra Support for Rookie Teachers

Data from a 2003 study[9] found that, within their first five years of teaching, new teachers drop out at a rate of between 40 and 50 percent. One way that many schools have had success in remedying this alarming statistic is through “induction programs” that give new teachers opportunities and time for professional development. These programs include supplementary offerings such as mentorship programs, collaboration with teachers in the same subject area, ongoing support from school leaders, and being a part of external teacher networks.

Additional Teacher Retention Strategies

These teacher retention strategies are not exhaustive, and each school environment is unique. Initiate conversations with your school’s teachers to identify areas of concern and to plan out solutions. One great way to assess levels of faculty stress, trends toward teacher burnout, and overall perceptions of school climate is through teacher surveys. If your school is suffering from high levels of teacher burnout and low levels of teacher retention, it’s important that administrators take immediate and decisive action to reverse the negative trends.

[1] Sawchuk, Stephen. “Research: Teacher Retention Rates Higher Than Previously Thought.” Education Week. Retrieved from on March 18, 2016.

[2] “The Teacher Dropout Crisis.” National Public Radio. Retrieved from on March 18, 2016.

[3] “Teacher Attrition Costs United States Up to $2.2 Billion Annually, Says New Alliance Report.” Alliance for Excellent Education. Retrieved from on March 18, 2016.

[4] Grayson, Jessica L. “School Climate Factors Relating to Teacher Burnout: A Mediator Model.” Science Direct. Retrieved from on March 18, 2016.

[5] Klein, Rebecca. “American Teachers Feel Really Stressed, and It’s Probably Affecting Students.” The Huffington Post. Retrieved from on March 18, 2016.

[6] “State of America’s Schools.” Gallup. Retrieved from on March 18, 2016.

[7] Elias, Maurice. “Teacher Burnout: What are the Warning Signs?” Edutopia. Retrieved from on March 18, 2016.

[8] Yao, Xiuping, Meilin Yao, et al. “How School Climate Influences Teachers’ Emotional Exhaustion: The Mediating Role of Emotional Labor.” National Institutes of Health. Retrieved from on March 18, 2016.

[9] Ingersoll, Richard M. “Is there Really a Teacher Shortage?” University of Washington. Retrieved from on March 18, 2016.

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