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March 1, 2019
Vol. 76
No. 6

Research Alert / Talent Managers

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Leadership
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It's no secret that effective principals have lower rates of teacher turnover in their schools. But a new study suggests that the best school leaders are also more adept at strategic retention, meaning they focus on keeping their best teachers while allowing—or even encouraging—lower-performing teachers to leave.
The study, conducted by researchers at Vanderbilt University and published in September 2018 by the American Educational Research Journal, looks at several years of school-staffing data and ratings from Tennessee.
It shows that highly rated principals tend to see higher turnover among lower-performing teachers and lower turnover of higher-performing teachers. The pattern is particularly strong in relation to teachers' scores on classroom observations, as opposed to their test-score growth ratings alone, suggesting that effective principals tend to put great weight on their own evaluations of instructional practice.
The study doesn't go into detail on exactly how these leaders encourage good teachers to stay while effectively pushing out less effective ones. But the data suggest that teachers who leave tend to be "counseled out" as opposed to put through administrative termination processes. The researchers also note that previous research shows that "effective instructional leaders establish school cultures marked by high expectations and consistent, useful feedback to teachers on their performance."
The new findings, they say, point to the importance of instructional leaders' "human resources or talent management roles in schools."

The study, "Strategic Retention: Principal and Teacher Turnover in Multiple-Measure Teacher Evaluation Systems," is available online.

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