Attracting and Developing High-Quality Teachers
Researchers, policymakers, and education leaders agree that teacher quality is a vital factor in improving student achievement. Therefore, it is imperative that states and districts recruit, develop, and retain high-quality teachers to ensure that all children are provided with an adequate education. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) initially required that all practicing public school teachers across the nation be deemed highly qualified by the end of the 2005–06 school year. Despite the demand for more highly qualified teachers, most states did not meet this benchmark. Even though the deadline was extended an additional year, some states and districts still face a major teacher crisis. High teacher turnover rates and teacher shortages—especially in areas such as mathematics, science, and special education—have left many states and districts scrambling to find ways to recruit and/or develop highly qualified teachers. This month’s newsletter highlights several strategies that may be useful in attracting and developing high-quality teachers.
Districts are working diligently to find effective ways to attract highly qualified teachers to their districts and are increasingly becoming more strategic with their recruitment plans. Author Nedra Atwell (2006) suggests that a successful recruitment plan does the following:
- Requires a recruitment strategic planning team.
- Develops marketing and outreach strategies.
- Forms partnerships with traditional teacher education institutions and alternative licensure programs.
- Evaluates the hiring process.
- Provides financial incentives.
The recruitment strategic planning team could include district staff as well as school-based personnel such as principals and teachers. Involving all stakeholders in the process gives everyone greater ownership of the process and can make it much more effective. Atwell suggests that to be most effective, the planning team should develop a clear mission, assess the needs of the district, and collect data to evaluate the effectiveness of the recruitment plan.
Marketing and outreach are key elements of the recruitment process. Many states have developed programs, such as Kentucky’s Leadership Academy and its Teacher Cadet Program, to attract middle school and high school students to the teaching profession. Marketing strategies also should include various media outlets to inform potential teachers about opportunities available in the district. Consider using mediums (print materials, radio, and television) to advertise job vacancies and to highlight positive happenings in the district. Utilize the Internet to post employment opportunities and allow prospective teachers to complete applications.
Forming partnerships with local colleges and universities is a great way to recruit teachers. One study that tracked how applicants found out about their alternative certification program discovered that the majority of potential teachers learned about the program and job opportunities in their districts from their college advisors or professors (Abell et al., 2006).
The hiring process itself can deter potential teachers from applying if the process is too cumbersome and time consuming. Find ways to reduce the amount of time and paperwork that it takes to complete the application and/or hiring process. For instance, Virginia’s Teach in Virginia program enables teacher applicants to submit one application to multiple understaffed districts (Spradlin & Prendergast, 2006). In Indiana, the Consolidation of Professional Standards Board was created within the Indiana Department of Education to expedite licensure processing (Spradlin & Prendergast, 2006). Several states are using licensure reciprocity as another way to quickly and efficiently get teachers deemed highly qualified into another state’s school system.
Research has shown that financial incentives such as signing bonuses can greatly increase the number of teachers a district hires for the school year (Atwell, 2006; Spradlin & Prendergast, 2006; Strunk & Robinson, 2006). Some districts offer signing bonuses that require teachers to sign a contract guaranteeing employment with the district or a specific school for a specified number of years. This is especially true in rural and low-income urban schools because they tend to have more teachers teaching out of their field and teachers with the least experience. Additionally, low-income urban schools have higher teacher turnover rates than other schools (Strunk & Robinson, 2006). As a result, some districts are offering financial incentives for veteran teachers to teach in hard-to-staff schools. For instance, New York City offers high-need subject-area teachers with at least two years of teaching experience who commit to teach in hard-to-staff schools up to $5,000 up front for housing expenses and a $400 monthly housing stipend for two years (Spradlin & Prendergast, 2006). Yet, it is important to note that financial incentives alone will not keep teachers in districts or those hard-to-staff schools. Financial incentives coupled with other strategies such as teacher induction programs, mentorship programs, professional development, supportive leadership, and teacher collaboration opportunities during the school day are much more effective in retaining teachers in a district.
Reprinted with the permission of the Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement. © 2008 Learning Point Associates. All rights reserved.
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