Strategy overview

  • Investing in educator hiring and development: Educator recruitment and retention initiatives seek to identify, hire, train, and retain a wide range of educators, primarily teachers and school leaders. Programs are typically administered by districts but often include partnerships with local universities and funding from workforce development boards, cities and counties, and state boards of education.
  • Prioritizing high-need roles: While some programs focus on filling general teaching gaps (like Teach for America) on a year-by-year basis, many initiatives prioritize specific subject areas (i.e. STEM) or roles (principals). Districts may also combine subject areas with roles, such as hiring and training principals to lead schools with a significant English-as-a-second-language population. More specialized pipelines tend to require more intensive training and recruitment components.
  • Training and certifying educators: A major component of most educator pipeline initiatives is teacher certification and ongoing professional development. This may include partnering with local colleges who have experience providing teaching credentials and/or revising a district’s credential standards to better capture demonstrated competency through non-academic experience. A foundational component of teacher retention is building on existing teacher skillsets through professional development workshops, conferences, seminars and more.
  • Increasing educator diversity: Some educator recruitment and retention programs focus on increasing diversity within a district workforce, rather than filling open positions more generally. While district-wide pipeline programs may include a diversity element, robust efforts to increase hiring teachers of color often require dedicated investments and partnerships for recruitment and training. Such initiatives can be incorporated into a jurisdiction’s broader racial equity plan.

While rigorous evaluations of merit-based pay, recruiting, and training programs showed favorable results on educator hiring and retention, effect sizes tended to be small and/or program effects were not long-lasting. 

  • A 2020 meta-analysis on teacher pay incentives found that merit pay led to increased teacher retention while programs were in place. However, it found little evidence to support that these effects persisted after incentives ended or that these effects were long-lasting.

  • A 2011 systematic review found that teacher recruiting and training programs had positive effects on retention, job commitment, and job satisfaction. However, there were some studies in the review that showed mixed results.

  • A 2019 quasi-experimental study found that the Principal Pipeline Initiative — which emphasizes leader standards, pre-service preparation opportunities, selective hiring, and training and support — improved principal retention. PPI principals were 5.8 percentage points more likely to remain in their schools for two years than their non-PPI counterparts and 7.8 percentage points more likely to remain in their schools for at least three years.

  • A 2020 quasi-experimental study found that two out of three district-specific TEACh programs — an alternative teacher preparation pathway which focuses on recruitment and selection, pre-service training, on the job support — led to increased hiring and also helped fill hard-to-staff positions.

Before making investments in educator recruitment and retention, city and county leaders should ensure this strategy addresses local needs.

The Urban Institute and Mathematica have developed indicator frameworks to help local leaders assess conditions related to upward mobility, identify barriers, and guide investments to address these challenges. These indicator frameworks can serve as a starting point for self-assessment, not as a comprehensive evaluation, and should be complemented by other forms of local knowledge.

The Urban Institute's Upward Mobility Framework identifies a set of key local conditions that shape communities’ ability to advance upward mobility and racial equity. Local leaders can use the Upward Mobility Framework to better understand the factors that improve upward mobility and prioritize areas of focus. Data reports for cities and counties can be created here.

Several indicators in the Upward Mobility Framework may be improved with investments in high-quality interventions. To measure these indicators and determine if investments in this strategy could help, examine the following:

  • Social capital: Number of membership associations per 10,000 people and the ratio of residents’ Facebook friends with higher socioeconomic status to their Facebook friends with lower socioeconomic status. These data are available from the Census Bureau’s County Business Patterns and Opportunity Insights’ Social Capital Atlas, respectively.

Mathematica's Education-to-Workforce (E-W) Indicator Framework helps local leaders identify the data that matter most in helping students and young adults succeed. Local leaders can use the E-W framework to better understand education and workforce conditions in their communities and to identify strategies that can improve outcomes in these areas.

Several indicators in the E-W Framework may be improved with investments in high-quality interventions. To measure these indicators and determine if investments in this strategy could help, examine the following:

  • Educator retentionPercentage of teachers who return to teaching in the same school from year to year or percentage of school leaders who have served in their current positions for less than two years, two to three years, and four or more years.

  • Representational racial and ethnic diversity of educatorsEducational staff composition by race and ethnicity (%) compared to student composition by race and ethnicity (%).

  • Student perceptions of teachingStudents’ perceptions of their teacher’s effectiveness, using a survey instrument such as the Pedagogical Effectiveness sub-scale of the Panorama Student Survey the Tripod Student Survey or other.

  • Teacher credentialsPercentage of courses taught by teachers certified to teach the given subject or grade level.

  • Teacher experiencePercentage of teachers with less than one year, one to five years, and more than five years of experience.

  • Invest in multi-dimensional recruitment: A robust talent pipeline requires significant recruiting capacity, including full-time staff members focused on talent and budget allocations for marketing. School leaders, district administrators, and teachers can also participate in recruiting events and direct outreach. Leverage existing district partners, especially community-based organizations and local colleges, to reach new audiences. Recruiting efforts should also include reaching people already connected to the school district, such as parents, siblings, paraprofessionals, and more.
  • Reduce barriers to entry: A key component of educator recruitment and retention is evaluating and refining existing hiring criteria and requirements, such as credentials. Effective programs often expand eligibility criteria to include alternative forms of credential (beyond college degrees), which may include in-district training, teaching equivalency, or referrals to teaching fellowships.
  • Leverage data tools: Investing upfront in a strong pipeline management system can yield numerous benefits. It can be used to evaluate individual program components, like the effectiveness of training and whether certain recruiting sources are resulting in high-quality educators. A data system can also be used for more advanced analysis, like matching school leaders with the schools that could most benefit from their specific skillset or expertise.
  • Build pathways for growth: Districts can address both recruitment and retention by investing in regular opportunities for professional development and incorporating those opportunities into marketing materials. Such efforts may include formal skill building opportunities through workshops, access to supplemental credential programs delivered through university partners, and mentorship programs pairing new and experienced educators. Additionally, districts can incentivize long-term retention by prioritizing existing school staff when recruiting for school leadership pipelines.
  • Identify vocal champions: Some changes to facilitate a robust educator pipeline, such as revisions to credential requirements, may be met with resistance from some existing stakeholders. To address that challenge, identify program champions from among school, district, and jurisdictional leaders. These leaders can help cultivate buy-in within individual schools and also play a major role in recruitment efforts.

Evidence-based examples

Selective teacher recruitment program that places new teachers in under-resourced public schools
Elementary and middle school success High school graduation High-quality employment
A comprehensive approach for school districts to identify, train, and place principals
Elementary and middle school success High school graduation High-quality employment