Driving Toward Educator Growth and Retention: Culture-Building for Support and Performance

This is the second post in a series on a framework for creating a school district culture that increases educator growth and retention. In this post, we’ll share specific strategies to help you create a roadmap to increased educator growth and career satisfaction in your district. 


Building a culture of support

Districts can increase the importance of support in their staff culture by developing clear activities and processes that help teachers develop and grow in their skills and career. We’ll dig deeper into this in a subsequent article, but at a high level, we’ve found the following five areas to be most impactful:

Supporting new teachers – Effectively onboarding new teachers — whether they’re entering the profession or transferring to your district — is key to ensuring a consistent quality of education. Turnover rates will never be zero, even in the absolute best districts, so ensuring educators who are new to your district feel comfortable in the classroom directly contributes to both improved student outcomes and the district’s goals around pedagogy and curriculum. Defining a high-quality, replicable New Teacher Induction program is the smart way to provide the right support for your new educators.

Frameworks can be created within a district based on evaluation criteria or other set of internal, state, or federal standards.

Developing active teachers – Once new teachers are onboarded, you’ll want to make sure they have the right mentor and coaching support. It may be a good idea to use an established framework such as Diane Sweeney’s Student-Centered Coaching model. These frameworks provide guides for consistent process and practice that’s been proven effective across many school districts. Frameworks can also be created within a district based on evaluation criteria or other set of internal, state, or federal standards. Another strategy is to use an education professional growth software platform that can help facilitate your work in ways customized specifically to your district’s support processes and framework.

Retain and continually grow experienced teachers – Provide learning opportunities for more tenured teachers that spark their professional interest while helping them continually grow their practice. Give them opportunity and room to suggest and try new ideas, provide feedback, and even bring in new PD programs or content. Maintaining a spirit of inquisitiveness and ambition in your more experienced teachers will help them elevate the whole team of educators within your district, as they leverage their experience to improve practice while inspiring newer teachers.

Aligning teacher growth to strategic goals – Make sure that there are commonly-understood goals and alignment on the process to achieve them, giving clarity to teachers around what they should be doing. This will also help facilitate more productive engagements between teachers and their mentors and coaches.

Minimizing evaluation surprises – Stress is a key inhibitor of performance, and uncertainty leads to stress. Districts should look for practices that minimize uncertainty around evaluations. In addition to clearly communicating the goals, districts should be encouraging regular informal walkthroughs or learning walks with all educators, and providing opportunities for regular, low-stakes feedback. This can be done through coaching, mentorship, or even through PLC activities.

In addition to clearly communicating the goals, districts should be encouraging regular informal walkthroughs or learning walks with all educators, and providing opportunities for regular, low-stakes feedback.


Building a culture of performance

Building a culture of performance is the combination of inspiration and setting high-but-attainable standards. In school districts, this comes through meaningful communication about district and school goals, clear goal and growth path setting with teachers, and feedback loops that help provide insight into areas that might need additional attention for equitable support.

Communicating the goals and reasons behind them – At the highest level, building a culture of performance begins with communication. Ensuring the district’s strategic goals are well-communicated, and that the reasons behind them are known and well understood, helps to build alignment around the same vision. When everyone knows what the goals are, collaboration between teachers and coaches — and between schools and the district — becomes more fluid and productive.

Knowing the ingredients to success – As your district develops goals and strategic initiatives, it’s important to determine how you want to track and define success. Set attainable goals and measures that can be easily understood and communicated. Once those goals are set, drill down into the details of existing activities to determine what contributes to results. Look for any secondary data points or signals you can track within those activities to get better insight into progress, creating feedback loops with shorter intervals. This will help you understand what levers are available to you, and which of those levers will be most effective in a given situation. 

Recognizing and rewarding success – Maintaining a culture of high performance is a lot of work, and everyone who helps make it happen within a school district should have that work recognized. In addition to addressing areas in your district that need improvement, make sure that you also spend time and effort to identify where there is success, who helps create it, and how. Recognizing your best educators will help them feel valued and benefit retention rates. In addition, public recognition acts as a signal to other educators of what’s working well and what they can model. Instilling confidence in a team enables them to do their best work, and that confidence can be built best when teachers know there is support when things go wrong, and recognition and appreciation when things go right.

As we continue this article series, we’ll dig into strategies for building cultures of performance and support in more detail and cover specific tactics.

Public recognition acts as a signal to other educators of what’s working well and what they can model.


Connecting support and performance

A culture of support is completely complementary to a culture of performance. They are two sides of a larger situation that enables a district to fully realize the potential of its educators and create the best outcomes for its students. 

A culture of performance builds alignment across the broader educator team, so everyone knows what is expected, what goals the district wants to reach, and the best general paths to achieve them. When a team is aligned on the same big goals, it’s far easier to instill the drive to achieve goals in each and every activity. When this happens in a district that has a high culture of support, the district can create the right feedback loops that can diagnose challenges and friction to attaining goals before educators and teachers get off-track. In turn, that knowledge helps fully realize the capability of your educator support teams like coaches, mentors, and PLCs.

When a team is aligned on the same big goals, it’s far easier to instill the drive to achieve goals in each and every activity.

If you’re looking to get started right away, an established coaching or evaluation framework can help begin the work of aligning performance with support. It can identify the right goals, link those goals to practice, and provide insight into the right kind of coaching and support actions that help create lasting results through higher educator confidence and skills.

Other districts we work with have also found success using an evaluation framework, like Texas’s T-TESS, to build out their own coaching frameworks that deeply link district goals with the type of support and professional learning teachers receive. There are multiple ways to approach this, but we’ve found that the districts who use a commonly-understood framework have the best opportunity to create an enriching culture of growth that values both support and performance.

In subsequent articles, we’ll dig deeply into how to build a stronger culture of both support and performance that includes specific, practical strategies you can use to create this type of environment in your school district.

What’s next

As we continue this article series, we’ll explore these concepts and strategies each in more detail to help you build foundational strategies to create a staff culture of growth built on a framework of support and performance. We’ll also explore ways different tools and systems can help tie data together that makes change management and building the right practice much more manageable, encouraging better results and outcomes. 

In the meantime, if you want to start building a culture of performance in your school district, schedule a call with us today. We’ll conduct a review and consultation of your current practice, show how our tools can help your team, and provide practical recommendations specific to your district’s needs, challenges, and goals. 

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