Skip to content

After the funding is gone — A community conversation on retention in smaller districts

A conversation hosted by New Teacher Center on practical approaches for supporting new teachers even when resources are few.

The challenge of recruiting new teachers in small and rural districts makes retention strategies all the more critical. Our recent webinar, with contributions from our Maryland partners — Calvert County Public Schools and Talbot County Public Schools — offered supporting research and practical approaches for prioritizing high-quality teacher induction in smaller communities.

Key takeaways included:

Make the case with research, evidence, and positive experience data

  • Highlight the positive impact of induction and mentoring and the negative consequences of turnover on teachers, students, and school community
  • Connect positive induction experiences to retention and working conditions research; teacher turnover and job dissatisfaction in rural schools are related to a range of issues within the locus of control of districts and schools
  • Investigate sources of specific retention challenges (e.g., salary, isolation) and emphasize impacts mentoring and induction can have to improve them (e.g., professional fulfillment, sense of belonging/community)
  • Educate stakeholders on the features of quality induction (versus short-term orientation and call-if-you-have-questions or buddy-system mentoring)
  • Track and report data on intent to stay and leading indicators for retention — teacher confidence and workplace satisfaction  (“Overall, my school is a good place to work and learn”) — to take action before it’s too late
  • Emphasize the ripple effect of mentor experiences on teaching staff — enhanced instructional expertise, leadership, and job satisfaction
  • Identify a stakeholder buy-in list (school board members, union leaders, superintendents, HR, school leaders, etc.) and commit to regular communications and data sharing about new teacher support

Emphasize the impact of quality mentoring on teacher growth and self-efficacy

  • Use mentor observations that show teacher growth on district-identified priority practices
  • Enable teachers to self-report on their preparedness for named priorities (school, district, individual) to highlight growth and opportunity areas
  • Leverage storytelling to showcase new teacher confidence and build connectedness with teacher, mentor, and school leader testimonies

Get school leader support

  • Use retention data and mentor program alignment with school/district goals to gain school leader buy-in and advocacy
  • Build leadership understanding of mentoring and coaching practices and impact
  • Define clear roles and responsibilities for new teacher support
  • Bring school leaders into planning to create the conditions and structures for successful induction

Invest in people over programs — extend the sphere of influence of mentoring

  • Include other key (permanent) instructional staff in mentoring training to build a culture of teacher support with shared language and methods that extend from induction into ongoing professional learning
  • Showcase role-specific mentoring methodologies for instructional deans, content specialists, curriculum supervisors, teaching and learning coordinators/directors, PL planners, and coaches, lead teachers

Embrace the opportunities of smaller districts

  • Emphasize the sustained ripple effect an investment in mentoring can have
  • Focus on collective efficacy, leveraging connectedness, and the bonds in small communities that can accelerate cross-pollination of practices and learning
  • Leverage strong relationships and multiple roles of staff to build coherent new teacher experiences



  • Zakia Brown, Director of Program & Partnerships, New Teacher Center
  • Miya White, Associate Program Consultant, New Teacher Center
  • Lanette Henderson, Program Consultant, New Teacher Center