We are in the midst of a national teacher shortage and our New Hampshire schools are no exception. There are numerous assumptions one could make about why teachers are leaving; however, I believe this question is best answered by focusing on why Granite State Teachers stay. In order to effectively address teacher retention and attrition in New Hampshire, understanding why teachers choose to work and stay employed in our public schools is vital information for policymakers and district leaders. Armed with that knowledge policymakers will be better able to positively impact teacher retention efforts in New Hampshire’s schools. Educational leaders need to look into why their teachers are staying.
Substantial cuts to both Federal and state aid continue to burden New Hampshire’s local tax bases forcing more local communities to absorb additional financial responsibilities. This intensifies the already present inequities for property-poor communities, many of which are rural and subsequently struggle to retain their teachers due to the state’s financial disproportions. Teacher retention and attrition in rural schools are about equity, access, and opportunity.
As a life-long resident of the state, veteran educator, and administrator in the NH public school system it has been my observation that student-teacher ratios are often the first statistic quoted in budgetary decisions. These numbers do not reflect the course offerings, rigor, and support services needed to effectively run a school that is meant to the needs of all learners but simply report the proportional relationship within a school of students and teachers. Schools that are comprised of a novice workforce are more at risk of teacher churn, or higher teacher attrition a peril that rural schools cannot afford if they are going to be successful in providing sustainable educational programming that will both support the success of their students and communities.
In order to effectively address teacher retention and attrition in New Hampshire, understanding why teachers choose to work and stay in rural schools is vital information for policymakers and district leaders. Having that knowledge policymakers will be better able to positively impact teacher retention efforts in New Hampshire’s rural schools.
Teachers choose to remain employed in their particular rural schools for similar reasons, those being working conditions, job satisfaction, and community engagement. Therefore, it is crucial that school administrators understand how these drivers of retention manifest in their schools and districts. Teachers care more about job satisfaction than high salaries, teachers need school leaders who are established in the school and trusted amongst staff members, and community engagement that is based on trust and reciprocity is critical for schools.
Our public schools can’t keep doing the same thing and expect teacher retention to improve. NH educational leaders need to look into why their teachers are staying. Our educators did not enter the noble profession of teaching to become wealthy but they need to be compensated fairly, they want to be appreciated and valued for their work. Teachers need leaders who will stand by them and trust them to do their jobs of educating their students. Schools and communities need to engage one another, one institution can’t do it all to create a genuine relationship. These relationships are formed by genuine reciprocal acts, that’s what creates school and community bonds and why our teachers stay.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Michael Whaland is an active board member of NHASCD and currently the Superintendent of Schools for SAU 13, serving the communities of Freedom, Madison, and Tamworth. He has an Ed.D. in Learning, Leadership and Community, a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies in Educational Leadership, an M.Ed. and a B.S. all from Plymouth State University.