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Should I Stay or Should I Go? Retaining the Teachers Baltimore City Students Need

A Report from the Fund for Educational Excellence

Over the last school year, a steady stream of stories about nationwide teacher shortages have continued to feature prominently in the news. Although Maryland and Baltimore City have been spared the worst effects of this trend, new teachers are in short supply across the state and shortages loom on the horizon. After noticing the lack of data beyond anecdotal concerns around a potential shortage in Baltimore City, the Fund identified teacher retention as a priority and sought to better understand what pushes Baltimore teachers to leave the classroom or inspires them to continue serving city students.   

Following months of research, the Fund’s newest report, Should I Stay or Should I Go? Retaining the Teachers Baltimore City Students Need examines teacher burnout, retention and recruitment in City Schools. Through in-depth interviews with a demographically representative sample of 202 current and nine recently separated City Schools teachers from 100 of the 164 schools in the district, educators shared with us their experiences in the classroom. They told us about what motivates them to stay, what could drive them to leave, and what would make them more satisfied in their teaching jobs. 

Should I Stay or Should I Go? Retaining the Teachers Baltimore City Students Need examines teacher burnout, retention and recruitment in Baltimore City Public Schools. Over 200 City Schools teachers discussed their working conditions, general experiences, what makes the job difficult and what they love most about teaching.

Should I Stay or Should I Go? Staving Off a Teacher Shortage in Baltimore City Public Schools is the first installment of research, published in September 2022, examining the current challenge of teacher retention and burnout in Baltimore City. In a survey conducted at the end of the 2021-2022 school year, we heard from 427 educators across 132 schools about what pushes Baltimore teachers to leave the classroom or inspires them to continue serving city students.

Themes and Findings

Thorough analysis of the teacher interviews resulted in the identification of the following seven key themes, listed in descending order of the most heard topics:

1. City Schools students, many of whom were experiencing academic and social-emotional challenges before the COVID-19 pandemic, were deeply affected by the pandemic and the period of virtual learning. Their academic and social-emotional recovery is progressing, but ongoing.

2. School leaders’ management styles and practices have a significant impact on teachers’ working conditions.

3. District leadership and central office management are out of touch with teachers’ day-to-day experiences in schools and hold unrealistic expectations for teachers.

4. Teachers value their students’ families as allies in supporting students and want to work more closely with them.

5. Teachers rely on each other for support, more than ever.

6. Teachers’ workload continues to expand and feels unsustainable.

7. Teachers feel valued when their school leaders show by their actions that they appreciate them.

While not included as one of the report’s major themes, the Fund also looks at what teachers believe needs to be done differently in City Schools to better serve Black students. Given the research on the critical importance of Black teachers to the success of Black students, it is doubly important for Baltimore City Public Schools, where Black students make up 73% of enrollees, to understand how Black teachers are doing.

Recommendations

Based on what they shared, the Fund has developed the following recommendations for changes City Schools should make in order to improve conditions for teachers and retain and recruit the educators Baltimore City students need.

1. Prioritize effective staff management practices in school leader hiring, training, professional development, evaluation, and retention.

2. Pare down and streamline teacher workload, wherever possible.

3. Fully implement the recommendations of the district’s 2018 Black Teacher Recruitment and Retention Work Group, including major investments in a pipeline program for conditionally certified teachers designed to support them through full certification, robust partnerships with local HBCUs, and high-quality, strategically delivered mentoring.

4. Adopt new collaborative practices and processes that foster improved working relationships between district leadership, central office staff, and teachers, including joint training and working sessions, better communications, and regular rotations for central office staff in school buildings.

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