Supports associated with teacher retention in Michigan

There is a teacher recruitment and retention crisis in Michigan and across the country. Why is there a crisis? What can be done? This third post in a blog series on teacher recruitment and retention summarizes an important recent study on factors that help teacher retention in Michigan.
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The first blog of this series revealed that there has been a growing crisis in teacher recruitment and retention over the last decade across the country. The second blog looked at challenges and potential solutions for teacher recruitment and retention in Michigan. This blog post summarizes the findings and implications of a 2021 U.S. Department of Education and Michigan Department of Education study on supports that are associated with higher teacher retention in Michigan.


Overview of Supports Associated with Teacher Retention in Michigan Study

The U.S. Department of Education’s Midwest Regional Education Laboratory (REL) teamed up with the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) to examine which supports are associated with higher teacher retention in Michigan. In particular, the study looked at the relationship between teacher retention rates and teachers’ thoughts about the supports available to them to do their work and be satisfied in their jobs.

The goal of the study was to identify effective teacher retention strategies in Michigan that can help ensure that all Michigan students have equitable access to high-quality teachers. The researchers aimed to understand what potential benefits and resources would encourage teachers to remain in their schools. By tracking local teacher retention rates across a six-year period (2013-14 to 2018-19) and comparing them to teachers’ perceptions of supports offered by schools, this study presented the likelihood of teachers staying in their jobs if certain supports were offered to them. Although the findings do not indicate any causal links between school-provided supports and teacher retention, they give insight into what Michigan teachers perceive as positive steps to retain them in their positions.


General Retention Findings

The study provided insights into general teacher retention trends across Michigan. The researchers found that between 2013-14 and 2018-19, 75% of Michigan’s 788 local education agencies had average retention rates higher than 80%. The median retention rate was 88.6%, and the range varied from 33% to 100% retention. The study defined local education agencies as traditional school districts and public school academies (i.e., charter schools). Intermediate school districts and regional education agencies were not included. 

When examining average annual retention rates by age, the study found that teachers over the age of 60 had the lowest retention rates (73.8%), which shouldn’t be too surprising given the prevalence of retirements for educators over 60 years old. The second-lowest retention rate was for the 25-34 age group (82.0%). Table 1 provides an overview of the average retention rates for various age groups.


Table 1. Average annual teacher retention rates in Michigan by age group, 2013-14 to 2018-19.

Age GroupRetention Rate
24 or younger85.9%
25–3482.0%
35–4485.3%
45–6087.4%
61 or older73.8%
No age reported63.4%

An analysis of retention rates by race and ethnicity revealed that White teachers had the highest average annual retention rates (85%). Asian and Black teachers showed the lowest rates (73.9% and 73.8%, respectively).


Table 2. Average annual teacher retention rates in Michigan by race and ethnicity, 2013-14 to 2018-19.

Race/EthnicityRetention Rate
White85.0%
American Indian/Alaska Native79.0%
Hispanic/Latino78.0%
Asian73.9%
Black73.8%

In terms of school type, traditional school districts had about a 14% higher average retention rate than public school academies (i.e., charter schools). Suburbs, towns, and rural areas had about a 10–14% higher retention rate than urban areas. The Detroit metro area had the lowest retention rate (78.4%) compared to other economic regions of the state (85.1%–87.7%). For a detailed breakdown of these comparisons, see Tables 3, 4, and 5. Figure 1 from the report’s appendices provides a detailed geographic representation of teacher retention rates across Michigan.


Table 3. Average annual teacher retention rate in Michigan by school type, 2013-14 to 2018-19.

School TypeRetention Rate
Traditional School Districts89.5%
Public School Academies (i.e., Charter Schools)74.2%

Table 4. Average annual teacher retention rate in Michigan by school location, 2013-14 to 2018-19.

School LocationRetention Rate
Rural89.4%
Suburban88.5%
Town85.7%
Urban75.9%

Table 5. Average annual teacher retention rate in Michigan by economic region, 2013-14 to 2018-19. Figure 1 provides a visual representation of these regions.

Economic RegionRetention Rate
East87.7%
Upper Peninsula87.4%
West87.4%
Northeast87.2%
Northwest87.1%
Southeast86.8%
East Central85.7%
Southwest85.2%
South Central85.1%
Detroit Metro78.4%

Figure 1. Map of average annual teacher retention rate by economic region, 2013-14 to 2018-19 (as found in study appendices).



The report found that teacher retention rates were higher when a local education agency served lower percentages of economically disadvantaged students, higher percentages of White students, or higher percentages of students with strong English language skills and proficiency.

The study also examined the prevalence of various supports that local education agencies actually offered teachers. In addition to supporting new teachers, results from the study indicated that mentoring programs and regular supportive communication with school leaders were offered the most frequently (85.6% and 81.7%, respectively). In the area of compensation and benefits, 82.2% of teachers reported that they receive annual salary increases. Over 90% of teachers reported having schools provide rigorous and helpful evaluation tools, including formal classroom observation, opportunities for teachers to set goals, effectiveness reports based on student growth data, opportunities to receive feedback, informal classroom walk-throughs, and defined performance standards. Lastly, about 89% of teachers noted that their local education agencies provided professional development opportunities in the form of organized workshops, conferences, or training sessions. Very few teachers reported receiving the following support: reduced teaching schedules for class preparation, childcare benefits, financial incentives if in high-need subjects/schools, and housing or mortgage assistance programs.


Supports Associated with Teacher Retention

The researchers also used their survey to assess how much more likely teachers would be to stay in their jobs if they were offered particular supports. Evaluations that include opportunities for teachers to set goals consistently showed higher probabilities for teacher retention. Mentoring programs were also identified as being positively associated with teacher retention. Other helpful supports included professional development, new teacher orientation, regular supportive communication with school leaders, release time to prepare for teaching, and annual salary increases.

Table 6 provides a detailed overview of the increased likelihood a teacher will stay in their jobs if specific supports are offered.


Table 6. Increased likelihood that Michigan teachers will stay in their jobs if certain supports are provided.

Type of Local Education Agency and Support% Point Difference
All Local Education Agencies (Traditional School Districts and Charter Schools)
Evaluation Includes Opportunities for Teachers to Set Goals+5.2
Mentoring Program+2.2
New Teacher Orientation+1.4
Regular Supportive Communication with School Leaders+1.3
Public School Academies (Charter Schools)
Evaluation Includes Opportunities for Teachers to Set Goals+16.3
Academy-Organized Professional Development+12.7
Sufficient Instructional Resources+12.0
Release Time to Participate in Professional Development+6.2
Mentoring Program+6.0
Traditional School Districts
Mentoring Program+1.5
Regular Supportive Communication with School Leaders+1.1
New Teacher Orientation+1.1
Annual Salary Increases+1.0
Agencies Serving Large Percentages of Economically Disadvantaged Students
Evaluation Includes Opportunities for Teachers to Set Goals+14.4
Annual Salary Increases+3.1

Practical Implications

Based on the findings of the Midwest Regional Education Laboratory and MDE’s study on supports associated with teacher retention, several practical implications emerged.

Disparities Among Teachers Need to be Understood and Addressed

School leaders need to recognize and understand that teachers of different backgrounds may face different challenges and circumstances impacting their job satisfaction, performance, and general desire to remain in their jobs. Given that this study found that retention rates are lower for teachers of color, supports should be tailored and based on the specific needs of various populations of teachers.

Needs and Concerns of Teachers Who Serve Diverse Student Populations Need to be Understood and Addressed 

Teachers who serve diverse student populations saw lower retention rates. For the sake of equitable access to quality teachers across Michigan, school districts and leaders should carefully understand what supports are needed for teachers serving diverse populations.

Teachers Should Have More Opportunities to Have a Say in How They’re Evaluated

One of the supports most consistently and highly associated with teacher retention is giving teachers opportunities to determine how they are evaluated, including setting goals in their evaluations. School leaders should examine their evaluation mechanisms and work with teachers to create individually driven and tailored goal-setting procedures. Such conversations would give teachers greater feelings of being included and heard in their professional development.


Final Thoughts

The findings of the Midwest Regional Education Laboratory and MDE’s Supports Associated with Teacher Retention in Michigan study point to the need to listen to and include teachers. When school leaders give teachers opportunities to set their own goals and share their needs and concerns to succeed in their jobs, teachers have greater feelings of respect and ownership over their work. Just as the education field stresses the need for students to be able to have voice and choice in their education, teachers should be afforded the same grace and opportunity in their careers. In the end, listening to and including teachers may be one of the simplest, most effective, and least costly paths to addressing the teacher retention crisis in Michigan.


Acknowledgments

The author would like to thank Tracy Gieseking, Kristen DeBruler, Christa Green, and Chris Harrington from the Michigan Virtual Learning Research Institute for their contributions and advice in developing this blog post.


Teacher recruitment & retention in Michigan

This series explores the challenges facing Michigan education and solutions that might help recruit and retain educators.

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Ed Timke

Ed Timke

Dr. Ed Timke is a research specialist for Michigan Virtual. Although he specializes in qualitative research — such as interviews, focus groups, ethnographies, and textual and visual analyses — he was trained in mixed methods research while in his doctoral program in communication and media at the University of Michigan. Ed has taught online and face-to-face courses on writing, research methods, global media and communication, the role of advertising in society, and intercultural communication at American University, Duke University, UC Berkeley, and the University of Michigan.

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