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Win the War for Teacher Talent With Performance Development

Win the War for Teacher Talent With Performance Development

by Joni Booth and Ben Wigert

Story Highlights

  • Teachers are craving career development
  • If they don't receive it in your district, they will look elsewhere
  • Position your principals to meet these crucial needs

Wondering why your school district is hemorrhaging its best teachers?

Chances are, your teachers are on the hunt for career development.

In fact, 60% of teachers left their last job for reasons related to career advancement or development. Worse, only 18% of teachers strongly agree that they are motivated by their performance management practice at work. In other words, even if you have invested heavily in your development program, it's probably not meeting teachers' needs.

Too often, districts offer nothing more than annual, one-size-fits-all teacher evaluations. Just as problematically, tenure and certifications are the primary avenues for advancement -- an approach that doesn't reward high performance.

Teachers need more. They need principals who truly care -- who never stop helping them reach their potential. They need a career pathway that celebrates and incentivizes exceptional performance. They need individualized opportunities to grow and a school culture that promotes excellence, not mediocrity.

How can district leaders meet these needs? Gallup analytics suggest that the solution lies in empowering and educating principals to coach teachers to excellence.

Insights from The New Teacher Project (TNTP) also indicate that principal development is the answer to the teacher retention crisis. TNTP is an organization that works to ensure all students get equal access to effective teaching. According to TNTP, principals are not equipped with proven retention strategies or policies that encourage them to make smart decisions about teacher development.

In turn, teachers' needs are neglected -- and they're flocking to the nearest exit.

Why Principals Are the Difference-Maker

Just as great managers are instrumental in the engagement and performance of their employees, principals are essential to building engaged, thriving schools and creating a great teacher experience.

Gallup data prove that the more principals coach their teachers (i.e., listen, provide feedback and celebrate exceptional performance), the better those teachers perform and the more engaged they are.

Teachers need feedback. They need to develop and grow -- and they want to know what value they bring to the table.

And teacher engagement quickly translates to student engagement and success. By coaching and engaging their teachers, principals can organically improve their school because teacher engagement is the critical link to student engagement -- which correlates with subject-matter achievement, graduation rates and college readiness.

In other words, district leaders can encourage student success by giving principals the tools and equipment they need to excel.

What District Leaders Can Do

Consider three ways that district leaders can position principals and teachers to thrive:

  1. Hire talented principals and teachers. All employees -- including principals and teachers -- perform better when they possess the right talents for their role.

    By selecting principals with the ideal talents for the job, district leaders lay the foundation for a school culture that maximizes teacher success.

    In fact, Gallup research found that schools that hired talented principals, based on an objective talent assessment, were 2.6 times more likely to have above-average teacher engagement.

By selecting principals with the ideal talents for the job, district leaders lay the foundation for a school culture that maximizes teacher success.

  1. Offer transformative learning experiences. Before expecting principals to lead with excellence, district leaders must empower their principals with the right professional development and training.

    Instructional leadership training can be helpful, but it won't transform principals into change agents who know exactly how to revitalize their school culture.

    At a minimum, principals need a clear picture of their responsibilities -- from incentivizing exceptional teacher performance to creating a school culture that attracts top-talent teachers. Practical insights, strategies and solutions are just as critical, including tools for conducting meaningful conversations with teachers that inspire excellence and foster trusting relationships.

    District leaders should enroll principals in leading-edge leadership courses -- the kind of courses that give principals everything they need to reinvent performance management and build extraordinary school cultures that teachers love to call home.

  2. Support principals with proven systems and processes. Broken, obsolete school policies are major barriers to any principal's success.

    For example, how can principals help teachers grow if the only option for advancement is non-teaching, administrative work?

    District leaders must demolish procedural obstacles and implement proven-effective methods -- like analytics-based attraction and performance development systems that meaningfully drive performance. Just as important, district leaders should hold principals accountable for measurable outcomes such as teacher engagement and retention.

There's no overnight fix for the teacher retention crisis. But principal development is a potent remedy.

When principals are positioned to serve as coaches and developers, their teachers won't just stick around -- they'll become world-class performers.

Partner with Gallup to create an engaged and thriving school culture:

Bailey Nelson contributed to this article.


Joni Booth is a Senior Consultant for Gallup Education.

Ben Wigert is Director of Research and Strategy, Workplace Management, at Gallup.

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