What can school leaders do to reduce the number of special education teachers who leave each year?
Page 7: School Climate
Another way principals can influence teacher retention is by cultivating a positive school climate. The school climate involves many different dimensions of the physical and instructional learning environment, as well as teachers’ and students’ experiences in the school. As leaders, principals are responsible for creating a climate that promotes teacher engagement and commitment, shared values, and the implementation of policies and practices that support teachers’ work and students’ learning. Below are some ways principals can foster a positive school climate.
Principals empower teachers by giving them opportunities for leadership and decision-making in their schools (e.g., membership on the school improvement committee, school representative to district committees). School leaders should encourage special education teachers to fill leadership positions and proactively seek their input in school-wide decisions.
Collaboration between general education and special education teachers is crucial to providing appropriate educational experiences and to ensuring that students with disabilities receive the supports they need to learn effectively. School leaders need to encourage collaborative relationships by:
- Including special education teachers in school-wide activities
- Creating appropriate expectations and professional learning opportunities around collaboration
- Facilitating dialogue between general educators and special educators
- Matching or balancing teacher strengths, needs, and personalities
- Encouraging shared responsibilities
- Ensuring teachers have time to meet
Principals who lead systematic school-wide efforts to foster positive student outcomes (e.g., PBIS) provide important structures that support teachers’ work. Because problematic student behavior is an attrition factor, systems that prevent problematic behaviors are a critical form of teacher support. Schools that use such systems:
- Are more engaging, responsive, preventive, and productive
- Reduce problematic behavior
- Maximize student engagement and achievement
Think back to the Challenge. The reasons Ms. Kamei’s teachers gave for leaving their positions were:
- Frustration with the lack of collaboration with general education teachers
- A growing caseload of students
- Difficulty managing students’ behavior
Would any of the methods of fostering a positive school climate, mentioned on this page, have helped Ms. Kamei keep these teachers? Which one(s) would you recommend she implement and why would you make this recommendation?