NAIS Research: Summary of Findings from Belongingness and Faculty Retention in Independent Schools

Executive Summary

Findings from "Belongingness and Faculty Retention in Independent Schools," by Jill Bergeron, Meghan Bollens, and Liz Davis, Peabody College, Vanderbilt University

Schools across the nation, both public and private, have been struggling with teacher retention for decades. Independent schools have been facing teacher shortages as well. Nearly 25% of teachers responding to a RAND Corporation survey in 2020-2021 said that they were likely to leave their jobs at the end of the year, creating substantial teacher shortages for many schools. These shortages affect students, both academically and developmentally. Studies have shown that a lack of consistent teachers can cause a decline in academic performance.  However, these challenges can also create new opportunities. This capstone project by Jill Bergeron, Meghan Bollens, and Liz Davis, of Peabody College at Vanderbilt University, suggests that low retention rates offer motivation for independent schools to invest in communities of belonging, which can lead to happiness and feelings of family among faculty. By improving retention, schools can also help students succeed in the classroom.

A summary of the findings in the researchers' report follows. The summary was prepared by Brenna Foley, NAIS research analyst.

To read the entire study, visit

About the Peabody College Capstone Project

The capstone project is the culminating academic experience for students pursuing a Doctor of Education in Leadership, Policy, and Organizations at Peabody College, Vanderbilt University. The capstone project and its accompanying seminars allow students to apply the analytic abilities, professional understanding, contextual knowledge, and related skills they have accumulated throughout the program to a project for an external organization. Drawing upon the program course work and their research, capstone teams design an intervention or process that implements learning, improvement, or change to solve the problem in an approach aligned with the organization’s needs. 

Learn more about Peabody College’s Ed.D. in Leadership and Learning in Organizations at

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