The Irreplaceables

Understanding The Real Retention Crisis in America’s Urban Schools

America’s schools are losing too many of their best teachers.

America’s urban schools are taking a negligent approach to teacher retention; many rarely make a strong effort to keep “Irreplaceables,” teachers so successful at advancing student learning that they are nearly impossible to replace, or usher unsuccessful teachers out. As a result, the best and worst teachers leave urban schools at strikingly similar rates.

The Irreplaceables spans four urban school districts encompassing 90,000 teachers, 2,100 schools and 1.4 million students to focus on the experiences of exceptional teachers. From the data we analyzed from these districts, we found three main causes for the destructive retention patterns we saw in schools.

Key Findings:

  • Principals make far too little effort to retain Irreplaceables or remove low-performing teachers.
  • Poor school cultures and working conditions drive away great teachers.
  • Policies give principals and district leaders few incentives to change their ways.

To combat the real retention crisis and create the profession that teachers deserve, we offer two major recommendations for education leaders: make retention of Irreplaceables a top priority, and strengthen the teaching profession with higher expectations.

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, stands in front of her students while introducing them to the captivating world of science

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, introduces her students to the captivating world of science.

About TNTP

TNTP is the nation’s leading research, policy, and consulting organization dedicated to transforming America’s public education system, so that every generation thrives.

Today, we work side-by-side with educators, system leaders, and communities across 39 states and over 6,000 districts nationwide to reach ambitious goals for student success.

Yet the possibilities we imagine push far beyond the walls of school and the education field alone. We are catalyzing a movement across sectors to create multiple pathways for young people to achieve academic, economic, and social mobility.

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