Recruiting Teachers for Hard-to-Fill Positions: All Students Should Have Access to Highly Qualified, Caring and Motivated Teachers, and a Safe and Positive Environment in Which to Learn

Article excerpt

Everyone agrees that highly qualified teachers--a cornerstone of No Child Left Behind--are critical for the well-being of a student. Yet recruiting teachers for hard-to-fill positions has never posed a greater challenge in public schools than it does today.

Low-performing schools, regardless of location or level, have difficulty recruiting teachers to increase student academic achievement. Also facing difficulties with teacher recruitment are many inner city urban schools in low income, high minority and high poverty neighborhoods; districts that experience very rapid student growth, opening many new schools in a short period of time; and rural schools in isolated, remote geographical areas.

Research identifies special education teachers as the most difficult to fill in all school and district settings; followed by bilingual/ESL; then secondary-level science, math and foreign language teachers.

One reason for this shortage is that inadequate numbers of these specialty teachers are being trained at institutions of higher education to meet increasing demands. These shortages are aggravated by a lack of incentives from many school districts to attract new teachers to these specialties. Often, school district/union collective bargaining agreements have the same salary schedule, benefits, stipends and other incentives for all teachers regardless of specialization or assignment.

Collaboration on several levels required

These hard-to-staff schools and positions must be assignments where adults and students want to work and attend school, where they feel safe and professionally supported and rewarded. This effort requires collaborative federal, state and local district commitment on multiple fronts.

At the federal level, the House of Representatives is considering salary incentive legislation to recruit teachers for needy schools. At the state level, legislation has also been considered to provide financial incentives for teachers to teach at high poverty urban and rural areas.

At the local district level, a shortage of quality teachers in high-risk urban schools has compelled school leaders to examine innovative methods of recruiting and retaining new teachers. At some districts, human resource and special education administrators have formed partnerships with universities to train these specialized teachers for early recruitment. Principals have initiated early immersion in the school environment for a smooth transition, in a team effort with human resource administrators.

Other districts have allocated necessary fiscal resources to the task of retaining new teachers, funding internships, mentorships and professional development. In the case of special education, outside agencies such as the California Association of Resource Specialists and Special Education Teachers offer extensive and effective training for teachers.

Principals have integrated other critical components to building teacher quality and commitment, such as on-site certification preparation, graduated retention bonuses--and, most importantly--weekly formal and informal interactions between the principal and new teachers.

The development and support of new teachers in hard-to-staff schools should be of the highest priority for principals, as stability is key to long-term school improvement. The commitment to this initiative must not only be evident in a principal's agenda and campus improvement goals, but in campus expenditures as well (Morgan and Kritsonis, 2008).

Effective recruitment

Broad-based and carefully designed strategies for recruitment are also key to attracting qualified teachers. Advertising vacancies in familiar places such as EdCal, Ed loin, your district and county offices and the local newspaper should be standard.

In addition, district participation at spring candidate job fairs should receive high priority. Districts should send an administrator and a teacher who currently serves in a hard-to-fill teaching position as effective marketing tools to attract candidates at the job fair. …