Magazine article District Administration

Hunting for Talent: School Administrators Try Innovative Strategies to Recruit and Retain Teachers

Magazine article District Administration

Hunting for Talent: School Administrators Try Innovative Strategies to Recruit and Retain Teachers

Article excerpt

Over the last several years, many school districts have been struggling to fill vacant teaching positions not just in quantity but also with quality teachers, especially in math, science, special education and English as a Language, areas where teachers are most hard to come by.

Next year, U.S. schools will need 1.7 million to 2.7 million newly hired teachers to meet increasing student enrollments and replace retiring baby boomers and other teachers who relocate or abandon teaching, says economist William J. Hussar at the National Center for Education Statistics.

On top of that, 30 percent of suburban school teachers and 50 percent of urban school teachers will leave within three years of entering the profession, according to Status of the American School Teacher, a 2003 survey published by the National Education Association.

But school administrators have no intention of flailing the white flag. As the competition to find quality teachers grows fierce, districts are becoming more aggressive and creative in the way they recruit. Some are promoting teaching careers to middle school students and college football players. With new programs and incentives in place, their strategies are working and filling large gaps in the classroom without sacrificing quality instruction.

A Good Teacher Is Good to Find Miami-Dade County Public Schools has nearly 24,400 teachers and high teacher turnover. Since 2003, the district has tried to recruit roughly 2,000 teachers each year just to open the school year, says Cindy Soell, the district's director of instructional recruitment in Miami. Teachers of middle school science and middle and high school math are among the hardest to find because fewer education students are majoring in those subjects.

Although the majority of its teachers come from in-state colleges, the district has added nonconventional recruitment strategies to its to-do list.

Soell, who is behind the district's efforts to personalize its recruitment process, assists prospective teachers by addressing questions or requests they may have to enhance the district's retention efforts. For example, she has helped incoming teachers from different cities or states check the quality and location of apartments they may have seen online.

Soell has met with football players at the University of Miami after football season from 2001 to 2004 to persuade players to become substitute teachers and then transition into full-time teachers, citing their slim chances of turning pro. She suspended this practice given high turnover in coaches, who were her contacts, but she hopes to resume it in 2008.

Administrators hire up to 75 teachers from Teach for America, the national corps of recent college graduates of academic majors who commit two years to teaching in urban and rural public schools. Most are eligible for Florida's three-year temporary teaching certificate, which requires a bachelor's degree and passing a subject knowledge test or completing college courses in the subject with at least a 2.5 GPA. They have three years to complete courses at a local university, focused on classroom management strategies to lesson planning. They attend a preservice training, or abbreviated internship, which Teach for America conducts. If they then opt to pursue a teaching career, they must qualify for the state's five-year professional teaching certificate, which means they must pass the state's general knowledge, professional preparation and education competence exams.

"We use [TFA] as a recruiting agency," Soell says, adding that a few graduates are placed in urban areas with impoverished neighborhoods. She says most new teachers live with their parents in the suburbs and that working in urban schools often means long commutes. And housing near urban schools is too expensive for most of them.

In the upcoming school year, the district also plans to hire 100 teachers from Visiting International Faculty, or VIF, a worldwide cultural exchange program for teachers and schools. …

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