By Rebecca Lindgren, REL West Senior Communications Strategist

This post first appeared on the REL West blog and is posted here with permission.

To ensure students are prepared for the future, they need an effective teacher in every classroom.1 In reality, schools across the country are experiencing teacher vacancies that can impact educational opportunities for students. Research shows that educator shortages disproportionately impact students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, students with disabilities, and students from rural communities.2

While teacher recruitment and retention issues are prevalent nationwide, REL West has been working within our West Region to understand the issues at a local level and identify ways we can work with our partners to bring evidence-based resources and couple them with the local contexts of each state to identify ways to apply data use and applied research to inform strategies at the state and district level. In fact, through needs sensing with partners at the Utah State Board of Education (USBE), teacher retention and early career attrition were identified as issues where the state seeks to make evidence-informed changes.

In response, REL West and USBE have launched the Utah Early Career Teacher Retention Partnership to learn more about the root causes of early career attrition across the state, along with identifying evidence-based strategies that districts can use to address them.

To address issues around teacher recruitment and retention, there are evidence-based efforts underway to identify solutions that can improve the teacher pipeline and help retain seasoned teachers once they enter the classroom. REL West reviewed efforts by other Regional Educational Laboratories for lessons learned, data, and research to inform our current work in Utah.

For example:

  • REL Southwest has supported state education agencies to design and implement “Grow Your Own” teacher programs, which help school districts identify potential teacher candidates and provide them with support to become certified teachers.3
  • REL Mid-Atlantic has worked with the state of Pennsylvania to investigate how teacher and principal residency programs can help address issues of staffing and teacher shortages.4 Research has shown that residency programs offer longer, more intensive training than traditional educator preparation programs and rather than exclusively focusing on candidates majoring in education, residency programs can seek to recruit candidates who are recent college graduates in other fields or who are professionals looking for a career change.5
  • REL Northeast & Islands partnered with the New York State Education Department (NYSED) to evaluate the certification and placement of new teachers in order to examine their certification pathways, their certification areas, and their subsequent placement and retention across the state. Understanding this data has helped to identify content areas in which teacher shortages were more prevalent.6

Each of these examples includes promising practices and evidence-based strategies to strengthen the teacher workforce and ensure an effective teacher in every classroom.

  1. Opper, I. M. (2019). Teachers matter: Understanding teachers’ impact on student achievement. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation. Retrieved from
  2. U.S. Department of Education. (n.d.). Fact sheet. Accessed November 11, 2022, from
  3. Barkowski, E. (2021). Supporting state education agencies to design and implement Grow Your Own teacher programs. Retrieved from
  4. 10 factors to consider when implementing teacher and principal residency programs. (2021). Retrieved from
  5. Ibid.
  6. Lemieux et al. (2021). Additional certification for teachers in New York State: Teachers’ experience and employment location, certification pathways, and certification areas. Retrieved from