How schools can keep their best teachers

Rated “highly effective” as a Washington D.C. special-ed teacher, Allison Frieze received a $15,000 bonus, but she quit her low-performing, high-poverty school to teach similar students at a charter school. Here’s how schools can keep their best teachers, she writes in the Washington Post.

“To retain our irreplaceable teachers, we need irreplaceable leaders,” she writes.When she was rated “highly effective,” her school cut off the coaching that had helped her improve.

For the evaluations that followed, I was videotaped, rather than observed in person, and I received my scores in writing, rather than during a feedback-driven conference. As far as my school leadership was concerned, I was a great teacher, but I still felt that I had plenty to learn — and I was no longer receiving opportunities to do so. Instead of feeling valued, I ended up feeling neglected.

. . . superb leaders demonstrate the elusive character trait of grit. That’s a commitment and determination to achieve a goal, no matter what it takes. A principal with grit knows that he or she can’t succeed without a team of great teachers and sets clear retention goals for high-performers. This principal is honest with teachers who are struggling, even when it’s uncomfortable, and does not consider inaction, failure or silence as acceptable responses to ineffective teaching. This principal pushes every teacher to his or her full potential. Finally, this principal asks the best teachers, “What is it going to take to keep you here?”

Can an average principal motivate a high-performing teacher?

And, yes, I’m already getting tired of “grit.”

About Joanne


  1. Florida resident says:

    An article

    “The Dream Palace of Education Theorists”.

    From there:

    “[…] Similarly with “incentives to bring the best teachers to the worst schools.” Setting aside the fact that you are dealing with a line of work whose labor union is armed with thermonuclear weapons, even supposing you could establish a free market in public-school teachers, how could the worst schools — inner-city schools serving black neighborhoods — ever outbid leafy, affluent suburbs for those “best teachers”? And how many “best teachers” are there, anyway? As the Thernstroms point out, a lot of these prescriptions for school reform assume an unlimited supply of “saints and masochists” — teachers like those in the KIPPS schools, who, Mr. Tough tells us, work 15 to 16 hours a day. I am sure there are some people who enter the teaching profession with the desire to crunch their way daily across the crack-vial-littered streets of crime-wrecked inner-city neighborhoods in order to put in 15-hour working days, but I doubt there are many such. […]”

  2. Stacy in NJ says:

    In really professions like medicine and law there’s a master – apprentice relationship. Doctors, accountants, and lawyers work under and are supervised (with lots of feedback) experienced professionals. Other than the joke that is student-teaching, teachers don’t get quality training and feedback. Allison is just pointing this out. And, good for her for her obvious dedication to her profession.

    • A better model would be that of the generic Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs for those coming straight from HS (as opposed to from an associate’s program etc). The first two years are spent on basic and behavioral sciences, pharmacology etc and the last two years are spent on the clinical material across specialty areas and the associated clinical practicums (under the supervision of the nursing instructor , with input from staff nurses). The latter provide increasing responsibilities, until the graduating seniors are assigned and functioning as staff. If HS grads can learn the academic material, clinical material and clinical skills of a new field in 4 years, there’s no reason tfuture eachers can’t learn to function as real teachers in an area where they already (should) know the content (ES-MS) or in 1-2 areas (HS). Of course, doing that well would mean the elimination of a boatload of ideological nonsense, airy-fairy theories unrelated to classroom realities and edubabble – so much the better.

  3. It takes grit to tolerate endlessly reading about grit!

    • So Caroline, feel like checking with the party line and explaining what possible motivation principals in district schools would have for wanting to retain good teachers?

  4. I’m still trying to figure out why a public school principal would want to hang onto good teachers. It’s not like they’ve got anything to gain out of the effort.

    • And good teachers tend to put more demands on a principal. They would rather have teachers that don’t ask for anything, or have standards they hold students too. If there are standards, some parents will complain, and that’s just more work for the principal.

  5. Good teachers in thug-filled schools cast their pearls before swine, who then trample them into the ground. Go where the blessings are. Would a renowned violinist play Mozart concertos before an audience of deaf people? What a waste.