School climate is key to teacher retention, student achievement
- Brown University assistant professor Matthew Kraft is lead author on a study called "School Organizational Contexts, Teacher Turnover, and Student Achievement: Evidence from Panel Data,” which argues that teacher effectiveness should not be the only focus in efforts to improve student outcomes.
- Phys.org reports Kraft studied middle schools in New York City by tracking changes in school climate and their impact on teacher turnover and student achievement and he found positive changes in leadership and professional development, academic expectations for students, teacher relationships and collaboration and school safety and order all decreased teacher turnover.
- Improving school safety and academic expectations were also tied to higher student test scores in math, indicating that schools with ineffective principals or inconsistent disciplinary policies cannot just focus on teachers as those who need improvement to impact student achievement.
Studies have found teachers to have the greatest impact among all school factors on student achievement. It is important to remember, however, that external factors, like poverty, have a far greater impact than even the best teachers. The era of test-based accountability has helped reformers draw a direct line from student performance to the teachers who spend so much time with them. But there are a range of other factors that impact student outcomes along the way, including the quality of leadership in their buildings and the school culture.
Education experts have identified the best school leaders as ones who foster a culture of continuous improvement. When adults model the idea of the growth mindset, showing students that failure is a step on the path to success, that helps students as well as teachers. Shared leadership also contributes to positive school environments. Teachers who feel like they have a say in school decision-making report having higher morale, which puts them in the proper mindset to best serve students.
Follow Tara García Mathewson on Twitter