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.