High teacher turnover rates have many consequences. They not only cause disruption in schools among other teachers and school administrators, they cost taxpayers billions of dollars a year, and perhaps most importantly, they jeopardize children’s stability in the classroom and ability to learn. Because of this, it’s vital for school leaders to hire teachers who are a right fit to the school culture and also find ways to retain those teachers once they’ve been hired. This is according to research conducted by Dr. Andrene Jones Castro, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor and member of VCU’s iCubed scholar program.
Castro presented her research, “Closing the Teacher Equity Gap: Hiring Practices in the Context of Shortages” at this year’s Virginia is for All Learners Education Equity Summer Institute, a conference focused on promoting equitable opportunities and outcomes for all students in Virginia’s public schools.
The two-day conference, held in Richmond in July 2019, was the fourth in a series of annual programs focused on the importance of providing the supports and wrap-around services necessary to ensure that all students are successful in school.
Castro said a part of her research background was informed by her experiences in the classroom. She taught high school English in Miami for almost nine years and served as a teacher leader, mentoring incoming teachers. During her time there, she said she experienced the high teacher turnover rate first-hand.
“Teachers would come in, and despite the mentorship that they would get, sometimes the leadership practices and policies within the district pushed them away,” she said.
Castro’s research points to several ways school leaders can retain teachers, including implementing both financial and non-financial incentives like opportunities for professional development and establishing career ladders. This, according to Castro, is especially important for many teachers of color who tend to teach in schools with more economic and social challenges. Another strategy for teacher retention as well as teacher diversity and equity might involve principals and school leaders including a variety of stakeholders at the table when discussing hiring.
“Are students included when we’re talking about hiring? Are parents included? Are community members included at the table?” she said.
Castro said she’s excited to be at VCU working with her iCubed research team, focusing on urban education issues within Virginia -- locally and at the state level.
“We’re thinking about some of the challenges in Richmond public schools broadly and how teachers can become more culturally competent to deal with the changing demographic shifts in Richmond. That’s the teacher education piece, but there’s also a school leadership piece because school leaders also have to understand the communities that they’re serving,” she said.
Castro earned her Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin with a focus on educational leadership and policy studies and a concentration in race and gender policy. Her dissertation is titled "Leading in Precarious Markets: Hiring and Organizational Decisions in Contexts of Shortages." Her primary research area explores policies and leadership practices impacting the teacher workforce, particularly for teachers of color in urban settings.