Retaining High Performers: Insights from Teacher Exit Surveys

A new Bellwether report by Kaitlin Pennington and Alexander Brand analyzes District of Columbia Public Schools’ teacher exit survey data to better understand why high-performing teachers left, where they went, and what they say would have retained them.

As school districts across the country report various kinds of teacher shortages, how to retain teachers has emerged as a key area of interest for district leaders and policymakers. There are a variety of incentives and strategies to keep teachers in the profession, but which ones are most effective? Asking teachers themselves yields answers, some of which cut against the grain of conventional wisdom in the education community.

In order to better understand why teachers leave the profession, authors analyzed teacher exit survey data from the District of Columbia Public Schools to determine what could have retained them or what would have had no effect. They broke down teachers’ responses by their latest teacher evaluation performance rating and focused the analysis on high-performing teachers. The results are compiled in an informative slide deck.

Key takeaways are as follows:

Why they left:

  • Work/life balance
  • School leadership
  • To pursue career change

Where they went:

  • One-third of high-performing teachers planned to continue working in a public school district; almost half planned to work in a school setting in general

What would have retained them:

  • Behavioral support
  • Encouragement/recognition from school leadership
  • Schedule flexibility
  • Leadership opportunities (this was the top effort that would have retained high-performing teachers of color)


For more, see:

A direct link to download the slide deck is available here: