redefinED atlanta and TFA Metro Atlanta Team Up to Strengthen Teacher Retention and Leadership Pathways

The Importance of Teacher Retention

Getting high-quality teachers into the classroom receives most of the public’s focus, but keeping these educators has also proven to be difficult, both in Atlanta and across the country. Between October 2022 and October 2023, 23% of teachers nationally left their positions, including teachers who left their district in search of better working conditions, teachers who moved into new roles in their districts, and teachers who left the profession entirely. 

Much of this turnover happens in schools that serve large populations of students from low-income communities, with 29% of such students losing their teachers. Students in these high-need schools are in greatest need of consistent access to high-quality teachers; unfortunately, greater levels of turnover tend to lead to instability, weaker relationships, and lower student outcomes. 

The 2012 TNTP report The Irreplaceables surveyed 90,000 teachers across 2,100 schools to discover the top reasons that U.S. schools were losing teachers at an alarming rate. They found that actively working to retain top educators was not a high priority for many school districts. Unhealthy school cultures, poor working conditions, and low pay drove teachers away. Sadly, these poor conditions persist more than a decade later, as a recent op-ed from a former Fulton County Schools teacher made clear. 

redefinED and Teach For America Metro Atlanta Partnership

This is where a new collaboration between redefinED atlanta and Teach For America (TFA) Metro Atlanta comes in. Together, we recently piloted the Academic School Leader Fellowship, a 10-month talent development program for mid-level educators. All 14 participants are Teach For America alumni working in Atlanta as teachers, assistant principals, instructional coaches, or other roles. To prepare to move into school leadership roles, participants develop their skills through monthly in-person sessions on advancing equity through instruction, teacher coaching, and individualized support. 

“The Academic School Leader Fellowship was designed to help our aspiring school leaders get the skills they need to be eligible for school leader positions,” said Tamara Rice, Managing Director of Alumni Leadership at TFA Metro Atlanta. “We take them through different experiences so they can apply what they’re learning and understand what it means to be a school leader.”

This approach has three primary benefits. First, it meets educators’ interest in continued learning and development opportunities. Second, it helps districts retain their top teachers in instructional-oriented roles. Third, it builds a pipeline of strong future school leaders who will serve students and families for years to come. 

According to a recent TNTP survey of schools supported by redefinED atlanta, only half of teachers say they “regularly discuss feedback about my teaching with an instructional leader at my school.” The Fellowship is focused on increasing these results by producing school leaders who are ready for the instructional components of the role. 

“When you think about a potential school leader, there’s a set of skills that a teacher needs to develop before they get into that role, and oftentimes there aren’t opportunities for them to do that,” said Rice. “We take them through the skills related to academic excellence and how to support other teachers so that when they get into school leadership, it lessens the curve of what they need to learn.” 

Impact and Potential 

Even though the program is new, it’s already impacting public schools in Atlanta. 

Parrish Amos

Parrish Amos is a current fellow at Ethos Classical Charter School. He served as a first-grade teacher at Ethos before being promoted to oversee instruction and curriculum for grades K-2. In the middle of this school year – thanks in part to what he learned through the Academic School Leader Fellowship – Amos received another promotion to a director role. 

“I never want to be a leader who doesn’t continue to grow,” saidAmos. “The program has really taught me about delegation and building up your team. By connecting me with other fellows, it has also given me a perspective from outside my school building.” 

It has long been proven that strong operational practices in a school positively impact student outcomes. Through the leadership training in the Academic School Leader Fellowship, Amos sharpened his lens to understand what must be true for teachers and classrooms to operate at maximum impact. With these skills, Amos has the tools to support his fellow teachers in creating classroom environments that encourage every student to thrive.

In short, the Academic School Leader Fellowship is turning a problem into an opportunity. Offering robust professional development opportunities for mid-career educators helps keep talented professionals working in schools. It prepares the next generation of school leaders to support thousands of students across Atlanta and beyond. 

How to get involved

Applications for the next cohort of fellows are open! Current school leaders can also partner with the Fellowship to have their teachers receive coaching support from the Fellows. For more information or to recommend a fellow, email Tamara Rice, Managing Director, Alumni Affairs and Network Support, TFA Metro Atlanta.

You can also sign up for the redefinED atlanta newsletter to stay up-to-date on all the efforts around Atlanta to support high-quality teacher training and efforts to close the teacher retention gap.