Leadership crucial in teacher retention

? The quality of school leaders is the top reason teachers in the state stay in the profession, according to a survey analysis released Thursday.

“The leadership factor appears to be the most significant factor in teacher retention,” said Wade Anderson, director of negotiation, research and computer technology at the Kansas-National Education Assn.

The issue of teacher retention has been a hot topic in the state as teacher shortages have cropped up in certain regions and subject areas.

A recent state audit said teacher shortages are expected to grow because teachers are paid lower than most professions requiring a college degree and many baby boomers are retiring.

But a survey completed earlier this year by 21,000 Kansas educators – 53 percent of the total – showed the No. 1 reason teachers stay in the classroom is leadership.

The survey asked: Which aspect of your work environment most affects your willingness to keep teaching at your school? Statewide, 36 percent answered school leadership; in the Lawrence district, the number was 34 percent.

Statewide, the next-highest answer was 22 percent who answered teacher empowerment, and 22 percent who answered the quality of the school facilities and resources. In the Lawrence district, the No. 2 reason for staying on the job was teacher empowerment.

The hallmarks of a good leadership climate include trust and respect within the school, fairness in evaluations, open communication and consistent support.

The Kansas Teacher Working Conditions Survey was reviewed for the Legislative Educational Planning Committee.

“This information needs to go out to the school districts,” said state Sen. Ruth Teichman, R-Stafford.

The survey was done through grants from the National Governors’ Assn., NEA and Kansas NEA. This was the first time the survey was conducted in Kansas, but it has been done every few years in some other states, Anderson said.

He said in North Carolina and South Carolina, teacher satisfaction with leadership was the single greatest predictor of whether the school would meet the required progress under No Child Left Behind.

The survey results can be viewed at www.kansastwc.org.