Educator recruitment and retention

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.
Target Population
Students enrolled in post-secondary education, Community-wide
Key Stakeholders
District or School Leadership, Nonprofit Partners, Educator Preparation Programs, Program Evaluation Team

What evidence supports this strategy?


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.

How does educator recruitment and retention impact economic mobility?

  • Hiring and retaining teachers: Programs focused on hiring, training, and retaining high-quality teachers can improve a wide range of student academic and behavioral outcomes. A high-quality education is one of the most significant drivers of long-term upward mobility.
  • Improving quality, reducing turnover in school leadership: Some initiatives focus on hiring and developing school leaders. Decades of research show that effective school leadership is associated with stronger student and school outcomes, leading to higher educational attainment and ultimately, higher earnings. Research also demonstrates that principal turnover has a negative impact on student performance, particularly in the event that the previous principal was promoted (indicating the loss of a high-quality school leader).

Best practices in implementation

  • 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 Stable high-quality employment
A comprehensive approach for school districts to identify, train, and place principals
Elementary and middle school success High school graduation Stable high-quality employment