How to Sustain Talented Teachers in High-Poverty Schools

A new report suggests how to create conditions in low-performing schools that support strong teachers.

teachers
A new study suggests attention to school conditions help to sustain and hold great teachers. (Photo: The Washington Post/Getty Images)
Jenny Inglee is a Los Angeles-based journalist and the Education Editor at TakePart.

Improving public education is a constant debate and more often than not, the focus shifts to teachers. What makes a good teacher, how should they be evaluated, and how can they reach more kids?

A new report released by the Education Trust suggests that to attract, nurture, and retain talented teachers, states and districts need to pay more attention to the culture and work environments in schools, particularly in high-poverty and low-performing schools. The report emphasizes that instead, some states and districts are too focused on implementing systems to identify their strongest educators.

"Figuring out who the top teachers are is crucial, but without attention to school conditions that draw and hold on to good teachers, this effort is meaningless to struggling and low-income students," the report states.

The researchers behind the report took an in-depth look at five school districts in southern Louisiana, Sacramento, Fresno, Boston and Charlotte that are working to improve the culture and conditions for teachers and are seeing positive results. 

In Louisiana, the Ascension Parish School System made feedback and support during the school day a priority, Fresno focused on developing principals into effective instructional leaders, and Boston Public Schools Superintendent Carol Johnson chose to create shared leadership for strong teachers. Charlotte and Sacramento also focused on strong leadership.

The results of the research, according to Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers is that it "validates what every teacher knows is necessary to strengthen public schools and the teaching profession." She explained in a statement:

Building a culture of collaboration and shared responsibility among teachers, principals, and administrators; focusing on continuous professional development for teachers; and ensuring teachers have the time, tools, and trust they need to improve teaching and learning are essential ingredients to building strong public schools and a quality teaching force.

The bottom line Education Trust co-author and director of teacher quality Sarah Almy said is "we have to be intentional about creating the kinds of supportive working environments in our high-poverty and low-performing schools that will make them more attractive to our strongest teachers.”

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