BYU Education & Law Journal


Education; Education policy; Education law; Educational equity; Education finance; Teacher attrition; Teacher career choice; Teacher retention; Teacher shortages


Most current legislative and policy efforts to combat teacher shortages in public schools in the U.S. focus on raising teacher salaries, or on incentivizing certain key subject matters in the sciences and math, known as Science, Technology and Math (STEM) initiatives. The ostensible purpose of these legislative and policy efforts is to increase induction and subsequent retention of highly qualified teachers who will then impact educational attainment of students. The major tool used has been salary incentives for new teachers or salary augmentation for existing teachers in certain subject matters. This research investigates teacher perceptions on factors that impact their likelihood of remaining in education. This is used to comment on whether the majority of current legal and policy initiatives are promising or effective in teacher retention and recruitment. A statewide survey of teachers in one western state suggests that current legal and policy approaches may be ineffective because they do not affect the actual factors that impact teacher induction and retention. Factors reported by research subjects in this research that were most predictive of teachers’ ideation of terminating their careers as educators were, in order of importance (a) teachers' career goals, (b) satisfaction with current position, and (c) compensation; while somewhat predictive factors were (a) self-efficacy, (b) altruism, and (c) job security. Factors that were highly predictive of teachers' satisfaction with their current position included (a) reasonable expectations of teachers and (b) well-behaved students; while somewhat predictive factors were (a) a trusting and supportive environment, (b) school administration’s vision for improving learning, (c) professional development opportunities, and (d) data analysis support. Teachers’ perceptions of these workplace factors were generally unfavorable. As a matter of education policy and law, these data suggest that the current emphasis on increasing teacher pay may have some positive impact on the desired goal of recruitment and retention, but the power of most current policy initiatives is low in comparison to other factors cited by research subjects. The authors conclude that to be successful in teacher retention and recruitment new policy and initiatives must not focus on salary incentives alone, but turn to the more powerful factors cited by these educators, such as improving teachers’ satisfaction with their teaching position by improving teachers’ work conditions.