This is how we are going to keep more great teachers in Metro Schools.

Teacher1 When teachers leave, it directly affects students and how those students perform in school.

We want to improve how we're encouraging teachers to stay with us. Even though the Metro Schools' retention rate is above 80 percent, the national average for urban districts, we know that we can improve.

So here's what we're doing. We worked with a diverse group of teachers, community members and district employees from several different departments to take a look at the challenges we're facing to retain teachers and how we can implement solutions.

"The bigger issue for us is that it is important for Nashville to be the best place for people to work and teach and that means retaining teachers as much as we can," said Katie Cour, executive director of Talent Strategy.

Our teacher retention plan touches every level of the district, from how we recruit new teachers to district office leadership. The plan is focused on changing district culture, helping principals be good managers of adults, supporting new teachers and giving more recognition to great teachers.

"We have much to celebrate as our teachers and schools are working to bring our students into a position of higher achievement and successful, meaningful learning. We want this to be a career that is exciting and hopeful for new teachers coming out of college and that they stay in this field because they know their work is truly meaningful and important and enriching to their lives, not wearing them to the bone," said Melissa Philips, a teacher at Crieve Hall Elementary School.

We're implementing this new teacher retention plan right now, with full implementation expected before the 2016-2017 school year starts.Teacher3

Our Research

A work team made up of teachers, community partners and district office staff from across divisions came together to look at the issue and develop recommendations for solving it. Over four months, our team:

  • Analyzed retention data
  • Analyzed teacher exit survey data
  • Held nine focus groups to gather teacher feedback
  • Reviewed research and best practices
  • Spoke to national experts

What We Found

Based on exit survey data:

  • 50% cite personal reasons as motivation for leaving
  • 48% cite issues related to school culture or school/district leadership
  • 33% of exiting teachers end up teaching in another Tennessee district.
  • 33% of low-performing teachers (according to TEAM evaluation scores) leave
  • 11% of high-performing teachers leave
  • 20% of teachers in their first five years leave

These results tell us several things:

  • District and school leadership have a great deal of control over whether or not teachers leave.
  • We are doing a good job of holding on to high-performers.
  • We need to do a better job of supporting new teachers.


Plan Details

Cultivate a district office culture that fosters great teaching.

Culture is the most important aspect of any organization. The district office culture must be one that creates conditions for principals to thrive, which will in turn allow teachers to thrive. That will help retain great teachers, which benefits students. Sometimes district practices, policies and rules get in the way of great teaching. These must change.

Are district office staff consistently focused on supporting schools or do they see themselves as more of a supervisor and overseer? We must always support students by giving principals and teachers the room to do their jobs creatively.

"It's about the way we interact with each other in central office, how we communicate with teachers and how we can encourage great teaching."

Evaluate principal quality and ensure alignment with values.

Principals all wear many hats, including instructional leader, organizational manager and more.

While most of a principal’s job does and should revolve around students, we may not be placing enough emphasis on leading adults and building a positive culture for employees, which also has a direct benefit for students.

"This recommendation puts the focus on Central Office to make sure that we are selecting and evaluating principals based on the things that allow great teaching to occur," said Cour.

Develop clear and high quality onboarding and induction processes for new teachers.

While Tennessee has some very strong teacher prep programs, most new teachers are not fully prepared for the classroom.

Research shows that teacher mentoring while on the job has a positive effect on teacher retention. Some schools do this very well, but it needs to be established district-wide.

When new teachers arrive at Metro Schools, we need to do a better job of introducing them to the district and letting them orient to expectations before they set foot in the classroom.

Identify and elevate great teaching.

There are a handful of teacher recognition programs, but they happen only once a year and affect a small number of teachers.

More frequent and meaningful recognition is needed for all teachers who are doing great work and improving students’ lives.

Beyond simple recognition, teachers deserve a stronger voice in school and district decision-making.

Our Retention Goals

By establishing a new theory of action for the district focused on supporting principals to create the conditions for great teaching to occur, and by implementing the recommendations contained in this report, we will:

  1. Increase the district retention rate from 83.92 percent in 2015-16 to 86.6 percent in 2017-18.
  2. Decrease exiting teachers’ selection of “dissatisfaction with current administration” as a reason for leaving on the exit survey
  3. Decrease existing teachers’ selection of “school culture” as a reason for leaving on exit survey.
  4. Increase the retention rate of teachers with Levels of Effectiveness of 4 or 5 on TEAM from 89.56 percent in 2015-16 to 92.83 percent in 2017-18 (approximately 100 more teachers with TEAM 4 and 5 Levels of Effectiveness retained).
  5. Increase the percentage of retained teachers with one year or less of experience from 78.41 percent in 2015-16 to 86.09 percent in 2017-18 (approximately 120 more teachers with 1 or fewer years of MNPS experience).

Read the full Teacher Retention Plan: MNPS Teacher Retention Plan