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Evidence Matters | Teacher Retention: It takes a Village

Last updated April 9, 2024

By Kelly Gregory

April 9, 2024

As we discussed in our previous two posts, collective teacher efficacy—or the belief among teachers in a school that they can positively influence student outcomes—is an important tool when it comes to both student success and teacher retention. And while there are several ways that schools and their leaders can create conditions that are ripe for the development of self- and collective efficacy among teachers, there also are ways that communities can help lay the groundwork for teachers who feel fully supported in and effective at their jobs and thus will want to stay.

In Fairfiled County, a small, rural community in South Carolina, retaining high-quality teachers has proven challenging, but there is currently an innovative effort underway to create more inviting and supportive conditions for teachers in this area of the state. The initiative involves the development of a 30-home community of affordable houses, which will be rented to teachers below market rate. According to Fairfield County Superintendent J. R. Green, the district is hoping to improve the overall well-being of teachers in order to increase both performance and retention. A clubhouse, which will hopefully be added to the plans for the community, would serve as a hub “to encourage teacher mentoring, planning, research, and physical fitness.”  And it is the collaborative planning and research components of this goal that may prove to be of the keys to building collective teacher efficacy.

In other parts of the country, similar initiatives have seen success or are gaining traction. For instance, in San Francisco, one of the country’s most expensive cities, the city and county have gotten behind a $105 million dollar project that will provide 134 low-cost apartments for teachers. While many teachers are priced out of living in certain communities like San Francisco, the ability to live in a “teacher village” not only enables teachers to live affordably in an area where they work—thereby saving on housing and commuting costs and effectively increasing their disposable income—but also to connect and interact with the families in their school’s community, further strengthening ties between teachers, students, and families. And this relationship is symbiotic; while cities may front some of the costs of such developments, more teachers living in the communities where they teach means that those teachers are also spending money there outside of school hours.

In other words, while the concept is still new and being piloted, it seems that these teacher housing developments could address teacher retention from multiple angles: effectively increasing pay, embedding teachers in the wider community to build mutual respect and bonds of trust, and, not least of all, fostering greater collaboration and support among teachers, which could boost collective efficacy.

But not every community has the ability to offer an affordable housing development dedicated to its teachers. Each school’s community can certainly look for other ways to offer support. Policymakers can also look to other ways to support collaboration among teachers. For example, teachers’ schedules are typically full, so it is imperative that dedicated time for collaboration be carved out at appropriate in order to allow teachers the opportunity learn from and with their colleagues in meaningful ways. To accomplish this, some districts have built shorter school days or additional professional learning days into their academic calendars, while others have added additional staff members to enable classroom teachers the necessary release time to collaborate with their peers. Emerging evidence suggests that there may be a correlation between increased collaboration and planning time for teachers and improved student outcomes, but additional research is needed in order to examine the effects more closely.  Whether it occurs within a teacher village or inside of a school’s walls, time for collaboration enables teachers to gain essential skills and knowledge from one another, and, ultimately, it may benefit students—and districts—in the long run.  As educational consultant Robert John Meehan reminds us, “the most powerful resource that all teachers have is each other.”

Kelly Gregory is the Riley Institute’s Director for Public Education Projects and Partnerships and previously taught for 11 years in South Carolina public schools. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and a master’s degree in Special Education. She also holds a National Board certification as an Exceptional Needs Specialist. She can be reached at