On the whole, the research literature relating to this question is not sufficiently robust or fine-grained to support more than the most general observations relating to the impact of various factors associated with working conditions on teacher recruitment and retention. The research does provide limited support for the expected conclusion that schools with greater administrative support and teacher autonomy have lower teacher attrition. The research also provides limited evidence that the higher the minority enrollment of a school, the higher the rate of teacher attrition — at least among white teachers. Similarly, there is limited evidence that attrition is greater in schools with higher levels of student poverty and also in schools with low student achievement.
While there remains a good deal of interest in class size reduction as a means of improving teacher working conditions and thus, presumably, increasing teacher retention, the literature in support of such a strategy must be judged to be inconclusive. Several studies indicate class-size reduction curbs teacher attrition, but the actual impact reported is extremely small. A reduction in teachers' workload also is often touted as a measure that will increase teacher satisfaction and thereby reduce attrition, but here, too, the literature in support of this contention is inconclusive.
Although the research evidence in support of the impact on teacher recruitment and retention of any single factor or set of factors related to working conditions is modest, at best, there is sufficient research to indicate the working conditions of teachers should be an important policy concern, especially in at-risk schools. One measure that seems important in view of the overwhelming percentage of white teachers in the workforce is to provide effective training for white teachers — either preservice or inservice — in handling student diversity. Another measure likely to be helpful, though not discussed robustly in the research literature, is to provide teachers with strong administrative support and adequate autonomy. The fact that "adequate autonomy" is a somewhat subjective determination indicates the importance of considering teachers' perceptions of their working conditions, as well as more objective measures, in setting policy objectives.
Finally, although the research literature provides no guidance on the issue of class size, it seems reasonable to suppose that larger classes are less negative a factor if working conditions are otherwise conducive to teacher satisfaction. This may imply that policymakers should attempt to determine which measures to increase teachers' job satisfaction are most cost effective and most feasible given demographic realities, the labor market considerations and the availability of various resources in their particular state or district.
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