Teacher Retention: Is It Simply Supply And Demand?

Editor's note: This article first appeared in the St. Louis American E-Edition on May 9th.



By Dr. Candice Carter-Oliver, CEO of Confluence Academies 



Being an educator is a calling. The opportunity to inspire life-long learners is rewarding. Something magical happens when you see a student understand a problem or idea. It’s the light in their eye, the smile on their face, the enthusiasm for tackling a challenge and learning something new. Educators have the privilege of building strong relationships with students and families, creating a supportive community. Yet, even with all these benefits, a career in education is not for the faint of heart. 

Teacher retention and recruitment present significant challenges for school districts nationwide. The complexities of turnover and burnout, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic, demand thoughtful, real-world solutions. 

Teacher pay is always challenged to keep up with the demands of the job. Coupled with the often-high stress and workload, schools across the country are facing critical shortages of educators. Put simply, it’s a supply and demand issue – too many teachers are leaving and not enough are entering the profession. As a result, districts are seeing shortages across most content areas. Missouri colleges and universities are seeing the issue as well – with a 25% drop in teachers entering the field. And, while teacher pay is an issue, it’s not the only issue nor is increasing salaries the only solution.  


Cultivating a positive school climate and culture is key to teacher retention and recruitment. Educators seek environments where their contributions are valued; and they feel supported. Part of this is fair, competitive pay, but not itself alone. Other successful initiatives include promoting health and well-being, providing ongoing professional development opportunities, meaningful engagement with other educators, and creating opportunities for growth. Taken together, these efforts are designed to create a workplace where educators know they are respected and are motivated to stay. 


Furthermore, replacing a teacher, especially a high performing educator, is not as simple as hiring their replacement. It's estimated that it takes 6 hires to replace a high performing teacher in a good school. Additionally, diversity among faculty is also a crucial consideration. Studies have shown that a diverse teaching staff benefits all students, providing them with valuable role models and perspectives. A commitment to increasing diversity through targeted recruitment efforts and by fostering an inclusive environment where all educators feel supported and valued is also key to a positive school culture. 


At Confluence Academies, a notable initiative is the Grow Your Own Teacher program, which partners with local educational institutions to create a pipeline for future educators. By engaging high school students, current staff, and community members in the certification process, the program not only addresses the teacher shortage but also creates opportunities for career advancement within the school system. 

It’s also important for school leaders to think regionally. This problem crosses all district boundaries. A regional, collaborative approach aiming to position the St. Louis region as an attractive destination for educators seeking meaningful and supportive work environments is the call to action. A rising tide lifts all boats. 

A serious commitment to regional collaboration, competitive pay, supportive cultures, and targeted recruitment and retention programs are all components of the investment we must make as a region in our educators, and through them, our kids. These investments will help create school environments across St. Louis where educators thrive and our students, schools, and communities are poised for success. An essential, collective effort will continue building a more vibrant educational landscape and stronger, more resilient communities for generations to come.