A focused analysis of incentives affecting teacher retention: What might work and why
Maintaining a highly qualified workforce has been a challenge for educational policy makers. According to the Alliance for Excellent Education (2005) the cost of replacing public school teachers is estimated between $2.2 billion to $4.9 billion a year. In an attempt to curtail the revolving door (Ingersoll, 2004) syndrome, school officials have developed teacher incentive programs. However, the implementation of teacher incentive programs has resulted in mixed reviews. Teacher incentive programs were initially designed to recruit individuals into the teaching profession. Signing bonuses, relocation allowances, and increased salaries were inducements in the recruitment of teachers (Liu, Johnson & Peske, 2003; Bracey & Molnar, 2003; Jacobson, 2006). In an effort to retain teachers, professional development opportunities and career ladder options were developed. Whether teacher incentives can improve teacher retention was the basis for this study. This study examined the relationship between teacher incentives and career stages. Career stages were identified by organizational tenure (Fessler & Christensen, 1992; Unruh & Turner, 1970), and included Early Career Stage I (less than one year of teaching experience); Early Career Stage II (1-6 years); Middle Career Stage (7-15 years), and Late Career Stage (beyond 15 years). The study focused on financial and career growth incentives. Using a mixed methodology research design, data were collected regarding the importance and availability of teacher incentives as perceived by teachers in the career stages. The survey instrument, Incentives for Teacher Retention Survey (ITRS), included two Likert scale questionnaires and a series of open-ended questions. The study concluded that financial incentives were more important than career growth incentives among respondents from all career stages. Fringe benefits (health/medical benefits, retirement plans), personal time, and salary were important financial incentives. Career growth incentives of importance included professional development and educational opportunities as well as career ladder options. Although respondents found that financial and career growth incentives were important, most reported that teacher incentives were not offered by their school/school district. Determining effective teacher incentive programs is a challenge for educational leaders.