Possible Strategies For Finding Teachers
Many states and school districts are scrambling to find teachers. Growing student enrollments, a shrinking supply of individuals choosing to teach, escalating teacher retirements, and high turnover of new teachers have brought the teacher recruitment challenge to a point of impending crisis. Gone are the days of the college fair magically bringing new teachers to fill classrooms. The school recruiter today pulls out of a hat assorted incentives and tactics to lure candidates: signing bonuses, mortgage reductions, on-site childcare, restaurant discounts, high tech outreach efforts, and overseas recruiting. In addition, programs to lure retirees, mid-career changers, substitutes, and military veterans are now on the palette of possible strategies for finding teachers.
Although teacher shortages affect schools and districts across the country to varying degrees, urban districts are facing unique challenges, owing to rapidly growing student enrollments, accelerating rates of teacher retirement, class size reduction initiatives, and demanding working conditions. Urban schools nationwide educate between 39% and 50% of the students who are not proficient in English, about 52% of minority students, and 43% of the country’s low-income students.
Teacher quality is emerging as one of the foremost concerns of school and university educators, parents, professional organizations, foundations, state education officials, business leaders, and legislators across the country. Roughly nine out of ten Americans believe that the best way to raise student achievement is to provide a qualified teacher for every classroom.
Developing Pathways into Teaching
An increasing number of districts are trying to address teacher shortages by “expanding the pipeline,” i.e., offering nontraditional routes into the profession to individuals from diverse backgrounds and fields. A new survey asked districts whether and how they encourage individuals interested in teaching to enter the profession through alternative means.
Attracting a Broader Pool of Students
A fair number of colleges offer programs specifically for working adults seeking to become classroom teachers. Slightly less than half offer alternative licensure programs, while a smaller number offer apprenticeship/internship programs. About the same percentage sponsor paraeducator to teacher programs. In recognition of the many “out of class” demands that students entering teacher preparation programs now have, many schools, colleges, and departments of education offer flexible course scheduling. The survey asked respondents what percentage of teacher preparation program requirements can be completed via part-time, evening, weekend, summer, off-campus, and/or telecommunications classes. A slight majority of respondents indicated that “all course requirements” were offered parttime, while a lesser number allow all course work (with the exception of student teaching) to be completed in the evening, at off-campus locations, and during the summer. Very few offer all course requirements on the weekends or via telecommunications.
Many programs offer incentives to attract candidates to specific high-need teaching areas: targeted career counseling; preparation, support, and academic assistance for state and national licensure exams; and special financial aid programs. Twenty-one percent of the responders offer credit for work or life experience in lieu of selected course work. Eighty-four percent of responding institutions have special placement programs or other incentives to interest graduates in urban teaching positions. In fact, nearly three-fourths place specific curricular emphasis on teaching in urban schools. Only 14% of respondents said they offer no incentives to attract candidates to high-need teaching areas.
Flexible scheduling options are available to accommodate the personal and professional needs of teacher education students in just over half of the responding institutions. Colleges and universities also offer incentives to attract candidates to high need teaching areas: more than half offer targeted career counseling and preparation, and support and academic assistance for state and national licensure exams. Almost half offer special financial aid programs.
School district administrators report that teacher candidates are reluctant to relocate; math, science, technology, and bilingual teachers are scarce; and retirement and maternity leave are increasing concerns.
With so much focus on teacher recruitment, some educators feel that a key problem is being overlooked: retention.
At the heart of the teacher shortage crisis, especially in under-resourced schools in urban settings, is the fact that teachers often are badly trained and treated, burn out quickly, and leave teaching. More than 19% of teachers leave the classroom within three years and nearly ten percent leave in the first year alone. This contributes to the projected annual need for 250,000 new teachers over the next decade, with highest demand in urban districts.
Medical residents and law associates—even rookie baseball players—receive extended training, development, and mentoring (working alongside a seasoned expert) before taking on the responsibilities of a full professional. In contrast, novice teachers often are left to fend for themselves, with little or inadequate initiation into the profession.
No matter how well an individual might have performed in college, teacher preparation courses and programs, or another career, the first years of teaching can be overwhelming. Even experienced teachers who embark on assignments in new cities or academic disciplines can be sorely tested.
Many schools, particularly those in urban areas, have turned to programs of training and support for novice teachers as a way of easing what is often a make-or-break first year.
The school districts responding to a new survey reported an average retention rate of 92% for teachers participating in induction programs. The study found that good programs improve new teachers’ knowledge, skills, and performance; provide personal support; introduce new teachers to school system norms and procedures; and familiarize them with school system values.
Although we found that more new teachers than ever before are receiving support, orientation, and even formal training to reduce the “culture shock” of their crucial first year in the classroom, how their induction experience is designed varies widely—from comprehensive to cursory.
Comprehensive induction programs include orientation, to acclimate novice teachers to their environment; training, to ensure knowledge of subject matter, student assessment, classroom management, and other matters; support, involving mentoring by veteran teachers to provide support and coaching; and assessment, to evaluate and improve teachers’ progress.
Even though there is increasing attention being paid to the importance of induction programs in teacher retention efforts, well-funded, comprehensive, developmental induction programs that serve all teachers who need assistance are far from the norm in U.S. school districts.
In light of the severity of the teacher shortage in many geographic and subject areas, it is only common sense to concentrate on working hard to keep the teachers we have already hired. We must find solutions that involve both innovative efforts to recruit qualified teachers and solid, comprehensive teacher support and assessment programs.
An Overview of Teacher Induction: Questions & Answers
How many districts have induction programs?
The good news is that induction programs are prevalent across the nation, particularly in the nation’s larger towns and cities. However, these programs vary widely in their complexity, intensity, and quality; and, unfortunately, induction services are not reaching all who need them.
Even though 48% of new public school teachers are participating in some type of formal induction program during their first year of teaching (56% in urban schools), the scope and quality of support can range from effective, comprehensive, multiyear, and developmental programs, to casual, one-shot, brief (and often inadequate) orientation sessions.
What are some common barriers to new teacher success?
– Inadequate preparation in classroom management
– Difficulty organizing time/work schedule
– Inadequate preparation in instructional methods
– Unfamiliarity with the curriculum
– Insufficient preparation for dealing with cultural diversity
– Difficulty fitting in with the school culture
– Language barriers
– Isolation in the classroom
– Large class size
– Cumbersome school or district bureaucracy
– Low salary/inadequate compensation
– Lack of respect or recognition as a teacher
What can induction programs have the potential to accomplish?
Effective induction programs hold promise to:
– Slow teacher attrition, particularly in urban schools
– Remove incompetent teachers and retain talented individuals
– Extend the preparation period of novice teachers through their crucial first few years on the job
– Improve the climate for teaching and learning, and build community between new and veteran teachers
– Eliminate the “brain drain” of urban teachers to the suburbs
– Provides grounded, standards-based support for beginning teachers to continue to become better teachers.
– Keeps highly qualified and highly committed teachers in the profession.
– Provides opportunities for experienced teachers to become better teachers while simultaneously taking up the professional responsibility to assure that the people entering teaching maintain and expand the care and competence with which they began their careers.
– Builds expertise and shared norms of practice.
– Breaks down the isolation that is anathema to the teaching that children deserve and communities require.
Are induction programs a new development?
Most induction programs in operation today were established prior to 2000. State mandates (often without state funding) typically spurred program creation. We found that, unfortunately, one in three induction programs had cut back services due to insufficient resources. However, the current shortage of qualified teachers is causing a resurgence of interest in supporting beginning teachers.
Are districts benefiting from their induction programs?
There is a paucity of formal evaluation among both state and district level teacher induction programs. However, anecdotal evidence suggests they are successful, and outcome data that do exist indicate that comprehensive induction programs can result in gains in teacher retention and teacher quality. Additionally, the study showed that the new teachers who are supported develop instructional proficiency at a faster rate.
What does the future hold for induction programs?
As states and school districts begin to focus more intensively on issues of teacher quality, the challenges of new teacher orientation, adjustment, effectiveness, accountability, and attrition are coming more and more to the fore. Increasingly, the federal government, states, and districts appear to be recognizing induction as a critical part of the infrastructure for professional development and are beginning to commit resources to formal programs addressing the needs of inductees.
Given the data on immediate and anticipated demand, the districts are unlikely to see an end to teacher shortages any time soon. Districts are employing a variety of strategies, including a host of new incentives, to attract teacher candidates, particularly from groups underrepresented in the profession. At the same time, however, the percentage of districts using long-term substitutes as well as teachers on certification waivers has also risen dramatically, because even with more aggressive recruitment measures in place, districts have had to adopt emergency measures in order to staff their classrooms. One positive development that has emerged is the growing percentage of districts that have introduced induction programs to support, assist, and retain new teachers. Evidently, districts recognize that one way to reduce the teacher shortage is to take steps to reduce the number of teachers vacating classrooms in the first place.
The districts also are expanding efforts to address the urban teacher shortage. Nearly three-quarters emphasize urban teaching within the curriculum. Even more have special placement programs or other incentives to interest graduates in urban teaching positions. Eighty-one percent actively recruit ethnic and racial minorities and a comparable number seek out students from bilingual/bicultural backgrounds. Colleges continue to offer alternative teacher licensure programs, flexible scheduling options, plus financial aid and other kinds of support and assistance to attract career changers and other nontraditional students.
Nevertheless, at the same time, teacher education students are still flocking to oversubscribed programs, making it anyone’s guess where well-prepared teachers for all the high-demand areas will be found.
Jeff C. Palmer is a teacher, success coach, trainer, Certified Master of Web Copywriting and founder of https://Ebookschoice.com. Jeff is a prolific writer, Senior Research Associate and Infopreneur having written many eBooks, articles and special reports.