Here’s how two Nashville state-run schools are tackling teacher turnover, low student performance
For years, two Nashville schools, LEAD Brick Church and LEAD Neely’s Bend, have struggled to produce strong academic performance – both were identified by the state as “priority” schools, performing in the bottom five percent of all schools state-wide. Teacher turnover presented another challenge, with about half of all teaching staff leaving LEAD schools each year. But leaders of the charter network knew that in order to improve student outcomes, they had to attract and retain exceptional teachers. LEAD’s chosen strategy: get innovative, and rethink the traditional model of teacher pay.
Chalkbeat Tennessee recently outlined LEAD’s plan to tackle teacher turnover and improve student performance:
“We had to make strategic changes in how we run our charter network because we weren’t getting the results we wanted to see in our ASD schools,” Tucker said. “What was inhibiting our ability to be successful there? We weren’t putting our best people in those schools. We almost started over every year instead of having a core group of teachers come back.”
This school year, LEAD began offering $5,000 bonuses for teachers who have stayed at their school for at least two years. Eight teachers at LEAD qualified for the bonuses.
For educators like Brooks, this was a big deal. But she added that higher pay alone won’t keep teachers.
“Everyone is really excited about this,” Brooks said. “There’s a sense of valuing our hard work, but there’s also an understanding that people have lives outside of school. You hear teachers all the time say, ‘I don’t have a life.’ I think here, that culture is improving.”
The organization also uses a merit-based pay scale that offers its highest-performing teachers up to 10% raise. This year, LEAD created an “advanced teacher” band, which starts at $65,000 and puts teachers on the same pay scale as school administrators. The annual salary for a teacher starting out in Metro Nashville Public Schools is $43,363, and the school district recently announced its own $5,000 bonuses for teachers in low-performing schools.
“We saw our higher-performing teachers want to make more money, and so they would become teacher coaches or join school administration,” said Chris Elliott, LEAD’s head of academics. “But we need to keep our best teachers in the classroom if we’re going to see sustained gains.”
We know teachers are the most significant in-classroom factor for student outcomes. LEAD’s plan to keep excellent teachers in front of students gets us closer to the vision of high-quality education for all.