4 Teacher Retention Strategies to Reduce Turnover in CTE
As a CTE curriculum developer, very often our team speaks with CTE administrators to better understand their struggles and those of their teachers. A common thread to these conversations is high teacher turnover. Most of these instructors have moved from an industry career to teaching and are faced with unfamiliar situations for which they have not been trained. Here’s one example from a health science instructor in Marion County, Florida:
“When I started teaching I didn't know what I was doing and I’m like ‘You guys expect me to know how to do this? I don’t know that you’re supposed to have a grade in every week, no one told me that. I’m supposed to have an essential question and an “I will” statement. How do you create an essential question? What do you do? What is a standard?’”
Knowing that this is a huge challenge, I’ve pulled together some teacher retention strategies based on conversations the AES Team has had with CTE instructors.
The four best strategies to retain CTE teachers are:
- Instructional Materials with Extra Resources Included
- Reducing the Time it Takes for Grading
- Help with Reaching Diverse Students
- Mentors for 1st Year Teachers
1. Provide Up to Date Instructional Materials with Included Resources
When a new CTE instructor is getting used to being in the classroom and learning how to manage it, finding time to pull enough resources together to meet curriculum standards can seem impossible. These teachers are placed in a classroom that may have an existing textbook to use as a base for their curriculum, but many do not. Here's one of many examples of what teachers go through:
"I am a Medical Assistant instructor and our books are outdated so we are looking for different options as well as to keep up with technology and prepare our students for the CCMA."
This is why one of the teacher retention strategies is to provide your teachers with instructional materials that include additional resources such as lesson plans and projects. And a 15 year old textbook won’t cut it. If your teacher is stuck with outdated textbooks, that’s just as bad as not having any. Why? The health care industry is constantly changing (like the AHA updates to CPR procedures in 2015).
Finding a curriculum that provides additional resources while also staying up to date may seem like a pipe dream… but it can happen! In Marion County, Florida, health science instructors use the HealthCenter21 eLearning curriculum which includes lesson plans, presentations, worksheets, and many other resources - all while staying current with industry and educational standards.
“As a new teacher if you have lesson planning already done, you can breathe. You have everything in HealthCenter21. You have lesson plans for teachers, you have worksheets for teachers. They would already know that it’s aligned to the standards.”
There are a number of instructional material options out there that include these kind of resources. You just need to take the first step and start searching.
2. Reduce the Time it Takes for Grading
Another major hurdle new CTE teachers face is the amount of time they spend on grading student work. While in an industry career, if their schedule was 7-3 they worked from 7-3. In this new position, these teachers find it frustrating and tiring to grade student work, since usually it is done during ‘off hours’ at home.
“It’s our main concern… when we need to sit down and write lessons, and make sure the lessons are engaging, and then we need to grade thousands of papers, that's a turn off.” - Daisy Questell, Hillsborough County, FL
Making the change to finishing work on nights and weekends can really put the strain on new teachers, and make them wonder if teaching is what they want to do. That’s why finding ways to relieve this frustration is another one of the teacher retention strategies you should employ. Here’s an example of what you could hear from your teachers if you found a solution for their problem:
“HealthCenter21 grades your tests for you!... I have a percentage that I can now take and put into my grade book… that takes me 2 minutes to do versus sitting there with the paper and grading.” - Shurene Major, Marion County, FL
“I get all the grades from Business&ITCenter21, I export them to Excel, I delete what I don't want, and add to my gradebook. For me, it is a lifesaver. I don't have to grade anything.” - Daisy Questell
Many digital curriculum options include automatic grading of quizzes and tests, which can make a huge difference. When looking for curriculum, put automatic grading on your list of “must haves.”
3. Help With Meeting the Needs of Diverse Learners
Any teacher will tell you it is tough to meet the needs of all of their students. Some students need more direction and one-on-one time, while others are much more independent. Learning the ropes as a new teacher doesn’t leave much time (or brainpower) to figure out how to differentiate instruction. Along with that, CTE Programs have large populations of ESL students that excel at the hands-on skills, but struggle with reading.
Choosing a curriculum that can be easily adapted to differentiated instruction will be a life saver for your teachers. They don’t have the time to do it themselves, so even just a starting point will help them get ahead.
Many teachers find eLearning curriculum can easily solve this problem in their classrooms. Because students can work at their own pace, the instructors can stress less and focus on students that need a little extra help. Here is how two CTE instructors are seeing this put into action:
“I like that HealthCenter21 has audio… We have a lot of freshmen for Medical Skills and they are English as a Second Language Learners and they don’t read well. Listening to it helps them actually comprehend the words that they’re seeing on the screen.”
“AES is perfect for differentiating instruction because they're working at their own pace and skill level. For example, I have some students that need more verbal direction from me, so I spend more time working one-on-one with them, while my more independent students can work through lessons on their own at their own paces. If they finish Word Basics quickly, they can move on to the advanced module while I continue working with the other students that need a little extra guidance."
4. Mentors for 1st Year Teachers
Many CTE instructors have shared that having a mentor their first year helped them get up and running and be confident in their new careers. A mentor can help a new teacher navigate the day-to-day and provide extra support when needed. Here’s Julie Connolley’s explanation of her role as a Health Science Supervisor that helps to mentor new teachers:
“It’s not the content they need help with. It’s classroom management… You give these teachers ideas. You go into their class and if a kid is driving them crazy, I’ll say ‘Send them over to a neighbor for a while. Give them some work to do.’ and the teacher will say ‘We need voices of experience giving us these ideas to do.’”
And one of her instructors Shurene Major shared how much she used a mentor when she first started teaching:
“Use all of the resources you can, [mainly] meaning other teachers. When I first started I was calling and emailing her so many times it was crazy… Have someone actually sit down and explain it if possible.”
“In our district if you’re a new teacher, you’re assigned a peer teacher. That’s not necessarily in your content area, but it gets you through the procedures of the school and the day in and day out stuff.”
If you don’t currently have a ‘mentoring program’ for your new CTE instructors, think about getting one started. It may be some work up front, but if it helps you retain teachers it will be well worth it!
How To Support Your New CTE Teachers
Making the transition from an industry career to teaching isn’t easy. Anyone who has made the leap will certainly tell you that. But one way to keep these new CTE teachers from moving on to their next job is to remind them that they can do it!
As an administrator, you can be one piece of the puzzle that your teachers can always count on for support. Julie Connolley, the Health Science Supervisor for Marion County Schools, Florida explained how she reminds her new health science teachers of their ability:
“You just don’t realize that you’ve done it all along… in medicine you are a teacher because you’ve been a patient educator your whole career.”
The easiest way to keep your CTE teachers after the first year? Find a curriculum resource that can make a difference in solving their biggest challenges. The right choice will align with these teacher retention strategies, and your first year teachers will be sure to stick around.