Building for the Future

Attracting and Retaining Great Teachers in Hard-to-Staff Schools

June 2013

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In the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), the median period that a teacher stays in a single school is less than three years. It is true that the complexity and challenge of teaching in our most vulnerable schools can be daunting. As teachers, we have firsthand experience with the policy roadblocks that prevent many of us from staying longer in our schools.

Where teachers choose to teach should be informed by student need, mission, and cultural alignment, opportunities for new professional challenges, and personal factors. Instead, it is often a rushed process, with more than 10 percent of teachers hired after the first day of school.

We came together to dream big and to share a few changes that could convince all of us—including the peers and members we surveyed—to stay and lead from our classrooms. We also collaborated in order to think practically about district realities and opportunities. The result is this toolbox for attracting, retaining, and increasing the number of very effective teachers in our district.


  • Establish school-based hiring protocol, including hiring committees with diverse stakeholders and candidate evaluations.

  • Offer school transformation packages to attract effective principals with financial incentives, specific district supports, and increased autonomy.

  • Improve new teacher induction with strategic and ongoing mentoring.

  • Strengthen student-driven professional development for teachers, using data, and school-based training.

  • Create community engagement grants for schools to incentivize community partnerships focused on boosting retention and driving student achievement.

  • Train administrators on smart retention strategies, like focusing retention efforts on the strongest teachers.

  • Create achievement awards for high-needs schools to fund positions based on individual school needs

About the Teacher Action Team

We are a group of 12 educators from diverse backgrounds who met for several months to review research on teacher attraction and retention, as well as local strategies proposed or piloted by UTLA, LAUSD and local charter networks. Additionally, we held more than 20 focus groups with roughly 150 teachers, conducted over 120 peer and administrator interviews to gather critical stakeholder feedback, and surveyed over 300 teachers and school leaders.

Jeff Austin High School Government and Economics Teacher at Social Justice Humanitas Academy

Christopher Ciampa High School English Teacher at Cesar Chavez Continuation High School

Meaghan Clayton Early Childhood Teacher at Cassidy Preschool

Patty Favila Kindergarten Teacher at Hillcrest Elementary School

Jocelyn Karlan High School Science Teacher at Dorsey High School

Estevan Leyva High School Humanities Teacher at Benjamin Franklin High School

Lindsey Patin High School Special Education Teacher at Westchester Enriched Science Magnet

Laura Schafenacker 7th-grade Science Teacher at John Muir Middle School

Joshua Thomson High School Science Teacher at Da Vinci Science High School

Riley Vaca High School English Teacher at Camino Nuevo High School

Laurie Walters Kindergarten Teacher at NOW Academy

Lucie Zuniga High School English and Drama Teacher at Eco Academy High School