How We’ve Invested in Teacher Retention

 

Our New North Star
that Guides our Teacher Retention Work:

All families across Oakland’s 78 square miles
know their children will realize their full brilliance and potential
at every public school in any neighborhood.

Our community continually takes collective responsibility
to reimagine, create, and improve a public education system
where success is not predicted by race and class.

 

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week, a perfect time to celebrate our community’s amazing educators. Superintendent Johnson-Trammell wrote this week that teachers are the backbone of our school communities, and we couldn’t agree more. The recent teacher strikes drove home this reality even more clearly – to realize our North Star requires us to retain our teachers better, which means not only greater compensation, but also additional supports for teachers and students.

For the last several years, I’ve led the teacher retention work for Educate78, which started by convening an Advisory Group of district and charter teachers back in 2016. These Oakland public school teachers conceived of our retention grant program, where individual teachers or teams could apply for one-year grants to try different strategies that would improve retention at their sites. It was closely coordinated with our citywide teacher survey, which sought to identify root causes and spark conversations, both at schools and district-wide, about how we can retain more teachers.

We are now celebrating the third year of our Teacher Retention Grant Program. Last year’s grantees, some of which have returned for a second or third year of participation, collectively retained an additional 22 teachers into this school year. That means between 500 and 600 students got to deepen their relationship with the adult that outside of their parents may have the biggest influence on their life. Instead of having to scramble to hire even more tough-to-fill teaching positions, leaders and the district were able to spend more of their limited time and resources on improving outcomes for kids in the classroom.

Our grantees have done the work to identify, test, and adapt strategies to improve professional supports in their schools for their teaching and their students’ learning. These strategies are part of strengthening professional conditions that these Oakland schools are creating and constantly refining, laying the foundation for stronger retention year-over-year. Below are some recipients of the Teacher Retention Grant Program that we’d like to lift up for their achievements:

Greenleaf (K-8): Over two years, this East Oakland grantee school increased its teacher retention rate by 32% and is now keeping three-fourths of its teachers every year up from barely half. They also adopted a standards-aligned curriculum and increased the rigor of instruction, while simultaneously and intentionally supporting teacher wellness and sustainability through a partnership with The Teaching Well. I’m excited for the children and families of this quality school, which has also received some positive recognition for its academic progress recently – three years of improvement in language and math!

Life Academy (High School): With the help of two years of retention grants, this Fruitvale-area high school has been able to further improve its strong retention rate, lifting it from 88% to 93%. In that time, they expanded a partnership with Mills Teacher Scholars to deepen teacher collective inquiry across the Humanities and Science departments to improve both teacher practice and student learning. The school’s math team also went to the UnboundEd Standards Institute (another of our teacher-focused initiatives!) in an effort to deepen their standards-aligned instruction. This high-demand school has also received recognition for three years of sustained improvements for students in English Language Arts (ELA).

Hoover Elementary (K-5): After only a year of grant implementation, this West Oakland elementary school’s teacher retention rate increased from 75% to 92%. The school provided materials supply budgets to teachers to reduce out-of-pocket expenses, purchased standards-aligned instructional materials, offered tailored support for new teachers, and provided paid summer professional development time focused on standards-aligned instruction. While their principal left last year, the retention grant was able to help mitigate that by helping them keep more teaching staff.

Arise (High School): This small charter high school based at the Fruitvale Transit Village improved its retention rate by 34% (to 74%) after two years of grant implementation with a focus on teacher sustainability and support by building in time for team retreats and teacher wellness into their professional development plans. Most importantly, they set teacher retention as one of the school’s top priorities and assessed and aligned their supports and culture to retain strong teachers every year. This school has also been recognized for improving outcomes for low-income Latino children.

Here is a complete list our current year grantees (2018-2019) and a map of all of our grantees over the last three years:

  1. Greenleaf: Teacher sustainability in support of rigorous academics
  2. Life Academy: Teacher professional learning with Mills Teacher Scholars and UnboundEd Standards Institute
  3. Hoover Elementary: Standards-aligned instructional materials, new teacher supports, and summer professional learning in standards-aligned instruction
  4. Oakland International High School: Department collaborative professional learning to deepen vertical and horizontal alignment
  5. Unity Middle School: Social and emotional services so students are prepared to learn
  6. Reach Academy: Teacher sustainability in support of rigorous academics
  7. Skyline High School: Instructional Leadership Team development to lead high-quality professional learning for their peers
  8. Castlemont High School: New teacher supports and department collaborative professional learning in support of rigorous academics
  9. Oakland Technical High School: STEM teacher development and pipeline
  10. Edna Brewer Middle School: STEM teacher development and pipeline
  11. Learning Without Limits: High-quality social and emotional materials and teacher training


 

Deepening Our Focus Going Forward
After three years of retention grants totaling over $435,000 across 26 Oakland public schools, our grantees have learned a lot about creating the professional conditions to support teacher retention. In the coming year, we will partner with them and other Oakland educators to deepen our focus on teacher retention and development in the following ways:

  • Capture and share lessons learned and successes from Oakland schools’ retention strategies, with tools applicable for other Oakland schools focused on creating strong professional conditions;
  • Advocate for increased funding to Oakland public schools from state and local measures, such as the opportunity to reform Prop 13. As a community, we must continue to rally for more competitive compensation for our teachers (and supports for our students!);
  • Continue to support Oakland educators in getting access to strong professional learning and conditions, for example, through sponsoring participation in the UnboundEd Standards Institutes and local instruction bootcamps led by Instruction Partners.

To focus in these areas and others that we hope will get more students access to quality public education faster, we are pausing on new grants for 2019-20. We welcome your feedback and input during the next school year around how we can move the needle to ensure Oakland teachers are moving towards competitive compensation and the professional supports they and our students desperately need.

If you have questions or suggestions, please email me. And from all of us at Educate78, thank you, teachers. For keeping our students at the center of everything you do, and for advocating for the professional supports you need to do right by them. We are committed to continuing to work with you and doing everything we can to back you in educating this and future generations of Oakland’s kids.

Now accepting 2018-19 Teacher Retention Grant applications!

Oakland teachers: what would make you want to stay in your school another 3, 5, or 10 years?

We’re kicking off the 2018-19 Teacher Retention Grant Program — a unique program that was designed by Oakland teachers for Oakland teachers. These grants empower teachers to change the conditions at their school that are preventing teachers like themselves from staying. To date, Educate78 has awarded over $300,000 to district-run and charter-run schools through the grant program.

Want to learn more? Check out this page for information on key dates, how to receive grant proposal support, eligibility, sample ideas, advice and answers to frequently asked questions.

Want to hear straight from Oakland teachers who have received grants? Check out blog entries from current grant recipients at Madison Park Academy, Greenleaf Elementary, Life Academy and Lazear Charter Academy. The grantees share how they identified the need at their school site, what they’re using the funding for, and what’s been working.

Teacher Retention Grants: Lazear Charter Academy

Educate78 is continuing to focus on – and provide funding for – teacher retention strategies because we know great teachers are essential to student success. Our Teacher Retention grants empower teachers to change the conditions at their school that are preventing teachers like themselves from staying. Oakland teachers know best what is needed in their schools to improve teacher success and retention, and we want you to hear straight from them: How did they identify the need at their school site? How are they using the funding, and what are some of the successes so far?

Other entries in this series:

In this blog, we hear from Luis Torres, a 5th and 6th grade math teacher at Lazear Charter Academy. Lazear received funding to support a Social Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum to increase both teacher retention at a high-needs school and students’ academic success by reducing their emotional stress.

What is the focus issue your site is seeking to address with the support of a Teacher Retention Grant?

We believe investing in a Social Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum will accelerate students’ academic success by reducing their emotional stress. The benefits will lead to a better school culture, academic success, and student engagement, which will lead to a higher retention of staffing.

How did you identify this as a need at your site?

The vast majority of students at Lazear Charter Academy face high levels of stress outside of school that includes violence, dislocation, poverty, and crime, and are unable to process and cope with the negative long-term effect of stress on their well-being and success.

In the past three years, we’ve had over 90 percent of our homeroom teachers specifically identify intervention and support with Tier II/III students as a direct causation for the decision to leave the school or for their low level of satisfaction at our school site. Evidence was collected through exit interviews, the School Climate Assessment Instrument (SCAI) report, post-Lazear surveys, and Gallup Q12 surveys.

How are you using the retention grant money?

We identified a researched backed program, TOOLBOX, as a means of developing our students personal and resiliency skills and also help teachers meet the needs of our Tier II/III students, an area focus for our school and cause of teacher burnout.

What are some of the key successes or areas of progress so far?

We have seen a decrease in referrals this year in grades that are implementing TOOLBOX.

Why advice do you have for other schools looking to increase teacher engagement and retention?

Each Oakland school is unique and has it’s own challenges. I would recommend schools digging deep into their data and identifying issues that you have control and can change at your site.

Every child goes through some form of stress and trauma. Coping with trauma and stress is a necessity in order to maintain a healthy learning environment. Without SEL tools and resources, we are disregarding our students’ basic needs and further creating a toxic environment that is hard to maintain for both students and teachers.

 

Teacher Retention Grants: Life Academy

Educate78 is continuing to focus on – and provide funding for – teacher retention strategies because we know great teachers are essential to student success. Our Teacher Retention grants empower teachers to change the conditions at their school that are preventing teachers like themselves from staying. Oakland teachers know best what is needed in their schools to improve teacher success and retention, and we want you to hear straight from them: How did they identify the need at their school site? How are they using the funding, and what are some of the successes so far?

Other entries in this series:

In this blog, we hear from Life Academy’s Christi Grossman, the Humanities Department Chair, and Rowan Driscoll, the Health and Bioscience Academy Director and Science Department Co-Chair. Life Academy received funding to build teacher capacity that drives forward student learning. Life Academy partnered with Mills Teacher Scholars to facilitate collaborative inquiry sessions with the Humanities and Science departments, building teachers’ individual and collective practice and driving student learning. Life Academy increased teacher retention to over 80% in 2017-18.

What is the focus issue your site is seeking to address with the support of a Teacher Retention Grant?

We are working to improve teacher efficacy with high-quality PD focused on a self-directed inquiry question. Our theory of action is that if teachers feel successful as educators, they will continue in the profession — while getting better in the process!

How did you identify this as a need at your site?

Our partner is Mills Teacher Scholars. We became involved with them three years ago when the Humanities Department began examining our practice as it impacts English Language Learners. The positive feedback from Humanities teachers led us to expand the work to the Science Department (2016-2017) and full staff this year.

How are you using the retention grant money?

Facilitation from Mills Teacher Scholars uses 100% of the Teacher Retention grant. MTS facilitators lead our PD once a month as teachers move through the inquiry cycle. They also provide monthly 1:1 support to teachers and work with Department chairs to make sure the trajectory is working to meet our goals.

What are some of the key successes or areas of progress so far?

Use of data to talk about student learning has been a huge win! By broadly defining data to include formative assessments, student writing, interviews, and surveys, teachers are getting a student-focused look at what is happening in their classrooms.

Why advice do you have for other schools looking to increase teacher engagement and retention?

One size fits none. While best practices in teacher retention can help school leaders ask good questions, the answers are going to be individual to your teachers.

Teacher Retention Grants: Greenleaf Elementary

Educate78 is continuing to focus on – and provide funding for – teacher retention strategies because we know great teachers are essential to student success. Our Teacher Retention grants empower teachers to change the conditions at their school that are preventing teachers like themselves from staying. Oakland teachers know best what is needed in their schools to improve teacher success and retention, and we want you to hear straight from them: How did they identify the need at their school site? How are they using the funding, and what are some of the successes so far?

Other entries in this series:

In this blog, we hear from Romy Trigg-Smith, the Greenleaf Elementary principal. Greenleaf received a grant to increase teacher sustainability while implementing an ambitious dual language school redesign. Greenleaf partnered with The Teaching Well to provide 1:1 coaching and whole staff PD sessions around research-based strategies to support teacher wellness and sustainability and dramatically increased teacher retention into this school year.

What is the focus issue your site is seeking to address with the support of a Teacher Retention Grant?

The focus issue our site is seeking to address is both individual and systemic supports for Educator Well-Being. As a school, we believe if we create an environment that promotes the well-being and agency of our staff at all levels, they will be more effective with students and willing to be foundational partners for the work we plan to do for years to come.

How did you identify this as a need at your site?

Since 2014, Greenleaf had an average annual retention rate of 66%. As the former assistant principal, I noticed how each year, as we lost roughly ⅓ of our staff, our team would spend too much of our time rebuilding relationships and trust rather than refining effective pedagogy for students and events for families. I knew that in order for us to transform and be the best community school possible, we must find a systemic ways to retain our talent and build a educator environment that allowed the work to develop over years rather than restart each August.

How are you using the retention grant money?

We are using the retention grant money to partner with The Teaching Well, a local non-profit organization committed to supporting the well being of educators and schools. Through the support of the ED78 grant, we are able to provide our staff a three fold support structure for their well-being.

  1. Whole site PD on Stress Resilience, Healthy Communication and Managing Transferred Trauma,
  2. 1-1 Mentoring for 60% of our teachers during the work day to turn these new skills into actionable habits
  3. Research reports where teachers were able to share gaps in support and as a leader I could course correct in simple ways to ensure that their voices were heard.

What are some of the key successes or areas of progress so far?

In our first year of the ED78 grant we increased our retention to 85%. Because of this, we were able to start the year with trust and go quickly into building off last year’s results. This year, as a leader I have seen an increase in collaboration, depth of ideas and our community’s ability to flow together.

Why advice do you have for other schools looking to increase teacher engagement and retention?

Outside Partnership with The Teaching Well has made a difference in our ability to support our teachers. Through this partnership, I am able to fully support my staff and keep my focus on accountability and student success. My teachers find it incredibly valuable to have a “third party” invested in their personal and professional growth while that outside resource is removed enough from the day to day community to allow for freedom of expression and comfort in addressing high needs.

Why is this work important?

This work is important because our students in East Oakland deserve a consistent, quality education and stable, reliable relationships. By prioritizing adult well-being, we ensure that we value and care for the individuals who create and develop these stable, reliable relationships. In order to be our best for kids, we need to be our best selves and that requires devoted time for and prioritization of self-care. When teachers stay connected to why they are in the work AND to their well-being, they are more reliable with kids and colleagues.

Teacher Retention Grants: Madison Park Academy

Educate78 is continuing to focus on – and provide funding for – teacher retention strategies because we know great teachers are essential to student success. Our Teacher Retention grants empower teachers to change the conditions at their school that are preventing teachers like themselves from staying. Oakland teachers know best what is needed in their schools to improve teacher success and retention, and we want you to hear straight from them: How did they identify the need at their school site? How are they using the funding, and what are some of the successes so far?

Other entries in this series:

In this blog, we hear from Annie Hatch, a Pathway Coach at Madison Park Academy. MPA received funding to provide teachers with materials and supply budgets to cover “the little things” – markers, paper, binder clips, as well as books, equipment for science experiments, and journals – in order to design quality daily lessons for students, while valuing teachers as professionals by providing needed classroom supplies and materials.

What is the focus issue your site is seeking to address with the support of a Keep Our Teachers grants?

Our focus is teacher retention. We lost about half our teachers last year and understand how traumatic that is to a school community. We want to keep our teachers and our teachers identified that a huge need for them is having the basic supplies and materials they need to do the job.

How did you identify this as a need at your site?

I had suggested maybe applying for the Educate78 grant as a way to partner with Mills Teacher Scholars. The teachers I met with pushed back and said, our needs are more basic — we need books, supplies, equipment, and we’re tired of fighting for everything or paying for it out of our own pockets.

The MPA team.

How are you using the retention grant money?

Teachers are allowed to spend their $500 in any way that supports them and increases student learning, teacher efficacy, satisfaction, and retention. They are using this money in a wide variety of ways — on manipulative, a vocab website, tools for digestive system modeling, posters, subscriptions to a coding website, glue and paper and pens, the list goes on.

What are some of the key successes or areas of progress so far?

Teachers feel respected as professionals and empowered to spend this money in a way that makes the most sense for them and their students.

Why advice do you have for other schools looking to increase teacher engagement and retention?

Ask teachers what they want and what they need! They will usually have some very good answers for you.

Why is this work important?

Because we need teachers to stay teaching in Oakland!