The recruitment and retention of highly qualified teachers is at an interesting turning point.
On one hand, states like Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, and potentially Wisconsin are making concessions to attract "real world" individuals to the profession. In these states, "alternative certification" programs forgo schools of education or even teacher training programs in favor of exams that get working professionals in need of a career change into classrooms.
On the other hand, there's an increased emphasis in adding more rigorous standards to the teaching programs in place. In December, the U.S. Department of Education announced a new plan requiring all states to submit report cards for the teacher preparation programs — from traditional education schools to certification routes like Teach for America — within their state lines, with the goal of curbing the number of unprepared K-12 teachers.
While national discourse centers on these two extremes, there is, of course, the middle ground. At least six states have created their own initiatives to woo and retain highly qualified educators via a number of incentives.
Probably the most recent program to come about, South Carolina's new teacher recruitment and retention initiative was announced earlier this month by Gov. Nikki Haley. The plan calls for $6.9 billion to be allocated toward finding and keeping good educators, specifically in rural areas or communities with high teacher turnover.
So what are the specifics of this plan? Those agreeing to work in districts where teacher turnover exceeds 12% are in for some sweet deals, including four years of tuition covered at a public institution for college students ready to commit to teaching; gradual payment of loans for college graduates who have already committed to teaching; starting salaries of $31,600; two years of grad school paid for educators who have already been in the classroom for five years; and a $5,000 stipend to any high-quality educator agreeing to mentor young teachers in high-turnover districts.
This past summer, the Arizona Capitol Times reported an influx of new teachers in the state and a wave of retirements. The end result? Very few established teachers. This issue resulted in the creation of a teacher retention task force. In December, the task force presented its recommendations. For one, it suggested increasing compensation for educators. The group found that the average teacher salary in the state was $47,600 a year, ranking No. 42 nationally in terms of salaries.
Another less tangible suggestion: better understanding the marketplace to figure out what other fields were snagging potentially effective educators. Finally, the task force recommended that the state back budgets and policies that support educators and leaders, and that it ensure professional development is relevant, timely, and woven into the actual day-to-day performance of the job. Since these suggestions were just made in December, the state has yet to take action — but it has created a Job Employment Board aimed at connecting potential candidates with schools in the state.
Facing teacher attrition in low-performing, low-income schools, Tennessee set up a payment initiative in 2013 that set aside $2.1 million to give away as $5,000 retention bonuses to 361 highly-effective teachers who stayed at those schools in the 2013-14 school year. Vanderbilt University did a follow up study on the initiative and found that cash incentives did in fact work for retaining teachers. When the university compared retention between the highly effective teachers who received the bonus and those who just missed the cut off, they found the bonus resulted in the likelihood of retention among highly effective teachers by as much as 23%.
"Along with savings from lowered turnover or replacement costs, we found that the bonus program could pay for itself in the long run when you consider the additional tax revenue from students’ predicted increased earnings if only 10% of bonus recipients continued teaching, and taught an average of 30 students for one year," said Matthew Springer, assistant professor of public policy and education at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of education and human development and director of the Tennessee Consortium on Research, Evaluation and Development at Peabody.
Created by the General Assembly in 1986, the North Carolina Teaching Fellows grant is one of the most successful state-led teacher recruitment programs. Instead of turning to college grads, the program looks even earlier, recruiting promising high school seniors and juniors to become the next generation's educators. Basically, the program annually selects 500 high-performing high school seniors, who promise to teach for at least four years in North Carolina schools. In exchange for their commitment, the state gives each student a $26,000 service scholarship and places them in a four-year, rigorous education program before they enter the classroom.
The Sunshine State focuses on teacher retention through recognition. On the Florida Department of Education's website, there is a special "Recognition and Recruitment" section that details all of the awards the state doles out in order to recognize hardworking teachers. There is the Florida Teacher of the Year Program, Florida School-Related Employee of the Year Program, Principal Achievement Award for Outstanding Leadership Program, Outstanding Assistant Principal Achievement Award, and, finally, the National Teacher Recognition Programs.
In order to attract highly-qualified teachers Colorado's Senate created the Quality Teacher Recruitment Program, which allows the state Department of Education to give grants to programs and initiatives that are working to bring effective teachers to schools. In other words, instead of paying highly-qualified teachers directly with bonuses and incentives, it pays middle men.
In December 2013, the state awarded funding to the Public Education Business Coalition (PEBC) and Teach for America (TFA). Each organization received $1,470,000 over the course of two-years, with the expectation that they would place teachers in partner districts starting in the 2014-15 school year. Thus far, PEBC placed 65 teaches in 13 districts and TFA placed 95 teachers in three districts. While this may cover the recruitment side, the next step is, of course, retention.
Would you like to see more education news like this in your inbox on a daily basis? Subscribe to our Education Dive email newsletter! You may also want to read Education Dive's look at 4 tools to boost language learning in the classroom.