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Teacher Recruitment & Retention

January 29, 2021
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WRITTEN BY Dr. Brittany Whitley

Recruiting and retaining qualified public school teachers plays a significant role in school quality and student success. While teacher shortages have been amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic, Missouri public schools have consistently experienced challenges hiring and retaining qualified teachers. Students in rural, high-poverty, and high-minority schools are most likely to have less experienced teachers and higher teacher turnover rates. Salary is consistently reported by teachers, students and administrators to be the primary barrier to teacher recruitment and retention. Missouri teacher salaries consistently rank among the lowest in the United States, including in comparisons adjusted for cost of living or to similar professions with similar education requirements.


  • The average starting and experience-based salaries for Missouri teachers are among the lowest in the United States. Missouri teachers make 26.5% less, on average, than Missourians in jobs with similar education/training requirements.
  • Schools that serve the highest proportions of nonwhite students and students eligible for free and reduced lunch are more likely to experience high teacher turnover and employ teachers who are working outside of their certification expertise.
  • Increasing teacher pay is a common strategy to improve teacher quality, recruitment and retention. Proposals to increase minimum and overall teacher salaries, as well as income tax breaks for educators, have recently been advocated for in Missouri.


  • Because teacher turnover and salary changes occur within broader economic trends (e.g., recessions), it is hard to directly link salary changes to improved teacher recruitment and retention in some cases.
  • There is no consensus on the best way to measure teacher quality and student performance. It is therefore easier to directly connect teacher pay increases to improved recruitment/retention than it is to improvements in student achievement.
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