Data collection can be a powerful tool for policymakers in crafting and implementing targeted, effective and sustainable policy solutions. In Minnesota, the Department of Education and the Professional Educator Licensure and Standards Board are leveraging available data and expanding data collection in an effort to improve statewide teacher recruitment and retention.
We recently talked with Yelena Bailey, director of education policy at the Professional Educator Licensure and Standards Board; Greg Keith, director of school and educator support at the Minnesota Department of Education; and Tyler Livingston, supervisor of educator workforce programs at the Minnesota Department of Education to gain a better understanding of the state’s teacher recruitment and retention efforts.
The Minnesota Department of Education and Professional Educator Licensing and Standards Board work together on many of the state’s teacher recruitment and retention efforts. One such effort is the state’s teacher retention survey (the Minnesota Survey of Preparation, Insight and Retention, or MNSPIRE) that is being administered for the first time this year.
Historically, these organizations collect data on a range of topics related to teacher recruitment and retention, including the biennial Supply and Demand report. This report includes data on teacher attrition by cohort, information on teacher shortages and unfilled positions, the tiered licensure system and information on teacher preparation programs. The state has additional publicly available data on licensure and compliance, licensure exams and teacher preparation programs.
According to the most recent data available, Minnesota had 112,860 licensed teachers in the 2021-22 school year. However, based on the most recent Licensure Compliance Report, only 71,902 teachers were working in schools during 2021-22, including related services providers and noninstructional assignments. The MNSPIRE survey will help state policymakers better understand how many teachers in the state start in the classroom and ultimately transition out, as opposed to individuals who become licensed but never enter the profession.
In recently reported results from MNSPIRE, 72% of respondents reported currently working in a public school district or charter school in Minnesota. Of the respondents who reported not currently working in public education, about half reported working in education in another capacity — including in private schools or as an administrator. Another 25% of respondents not currently employed in public education indicated that they were changing career fields.
About 30% of respondents indicated that school climate is a top reason they left the teaching profession, followed by 16% who chose a lack of academic freedom, economic reasons and/or standardized testing among their top reasons for leaving. Across the open responses on the survey, respondents consistently discussed a desire to reduce “teacher burden” in order to retain teachers, including increasing pay and benefits, examining administrative tasks and reducing work hours.
Similar to our conversation with Joan Johnson and Meg Homer with the Virginia Department of Education, all three individuals in Minnesota mentioned a need for a greater focus on teacher retention from the state level.
“We often address the symptom of the problem, but not the problem itself,” one of the individuals mentioned, adding, “Identifying why teachers are leaving systemically would be helpful.” While this is the first year it has been administered, the teacher retention survey may be one way for Minnesota state policymakers to begin this conversation and explore targeted, effective and sustainable policy solutions for their state.