TDOE Releases Teacher Retention Listening Tour Report from Thousands of Tennessee Teachers

Wednesday, June 28, 2023 | 09:20am


Key Findings Reveal Insights & Opportunities

Nashville, TN—Today, the Tennessee Department of Education released the Tennessee Teacher Retention Listening Tour Findings Overview, outlining over 3,500 minutes of conversations and feedback from over 1,000 Tennessee teachers representing the state and providing a deep dive into potential comprehensive solutions to help retain teachers. 

Over the past several years, states across the nation have seen a decline in classroom teachers remaining in the profession, which sparked the work and genesis of the Tennessee Teacher Retention Listening Tour. After announcing the listening tour and inviting all current classroom teachers to participate in November of 2022, over 1,000 Tennessee educators from across the state expressed interest in participating in the listening tour by engaging in interviews, surveys and more. Using a random sampling method to pull a representative group of 100 teachers to participate in ten cohorts, the department had representation from each CORE region, grade level, district and school type, years of experience, and more.

“We are thankful for the over 1,000 teachers who expressed interest in participating in the listening tour and to all of the participants who took time out of their busy schedules to have very honest and transparent conversations with the department over the past several months,” said Interim Commissioner Sam Pearcy. “We look forward to seeing how we can continue to support our educators and make Tennessee the best state to become and remain a teacher.”  

Over the past few months, the department strategically focused efforts on the Tennessee Teacher Retention Listening Tour, hosting insightful conversations and gathering feedback from the state’s teachers. The following are key findings from the listening tour:

  • Personalized and Balanced Professional Development (PD) – Participating teachers discussed their desire for additional and more customized professional development opportunities across the state.  
  • Pay and Benefits – Participating educators shared their desire for better pay and benefits. In May 2023, the Tennessee General Assembly passed and Governor Bill Lee signed landmark legislation that gives teachers the largest pay raise in state history, raising the minimum teacher salary to $50,000 by 2026, a significant increase from $35,000 in 2019.
  • Mentorship and Collaboration – Participants shared that after the first few years of teaching, most teachers do not have many opportunities for mentorship, meaning they do not have access to mentorship groups or convenings with other seasoned educators. Teachers believe mentorship and continuous collaboration across the state will be beneficial to the profession in helping them grow and become better educators.
  • Leadership Support – Participating teachers emphasized that school and district leadership set the tone and morale in the overall school environment and culture, and that leadership’s actions directly impact them and their work. Teachers also voiced that spending time in classrooms is the best way leaders can understand and learn about the needs of a classroom.
  • Teacher Wellness and Appreciation – Participating teachers want to be valued and appreciated by their district and school leadership and the state emphasizing the need to balance continuous improvements as well as recognition for great work. For example, a “Thank You” from their district and school leadership, students, parents or department staff would show teachers that what they do every day is valued and appreciated.
  • Policymaking and Accountability – Teachers shared they enjoy opportunities to share their classroom experiences with state and elected officials and would like to be included in more conversations with decision-makers at the department, State Board of Education, and Tennessee General Assembly.

Participating teachers shared feedback on their experience participating in the Tennessee Teacher Retention Listening Tour:

“After participating in the Teacher Retention Listening Tour, I feel confident that we are trending upward in supporting teachers' concerns and supporting new initiatives that support teachers state-wide. That's why I love teaching; teamwork leads to student success every time.”

“During the listening sessions, teachers poured their hearts out about how they felt about the state of our nation's education system. In summary, we believe that we put our hearts on the line for our students many times as if they are our own sacrificing our time, health, resources, and sometimes our own families. We just want the community to take care of us financially and work with us as a team, accepting responsibility for the results. I teach because I care that the children we educate today will become our nation tomorrow.”

"I really enjoyed the listening tour; it makes me feel as though I have a voice in helping shape policy at the state level while continuing to be a classroom teacher.”

“By voicing my opinion in the listening tour, I rediscovered my love for the 'Ah-Ha' moments and the joy that I feel when students reach the point of understanding. I made extra efforts after the listening tour to make more of those moments happen and I plan to continue this going forward." 

The department would like to thank each educator for their time and willingness to participate in the listening tour and prepared this report to share Tennessee teacher input on how to improve their classroom experience. Tennessee is dedicated to retaining and attracting high-quality educators to provide the best for all students. 

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