Recruiting, Hiring & Retaining Highly Qualified Teachers
A growing student population, high turnover rates, and more stringent standards have tightened the pool of qualified applicants for teaching positions at U.S. public schools. Public school administrators must work harder and develop processes to attract and recruit new teachers. There are many "best practices" that can be employed to recruit and hire highly qualified teachers as mandated by The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Retaining teachers is less costly than hiring, and new teachers who receive appropriate administrative support and mentoring or participate in development programs tend to stay in the profession.
Keywords Attrition; Certification; High, Objective, Uniform State Standard of Evaluation (HOUSSE); Highly Qualified Teachers; Licensure; No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB); Probation; Teacher Recruitment; Teacher Retention; Teacher Turnover; Tenure
As student enrollment in U.S. schools is expected to grow through the century, so too will the demand for teachers. In 2005, there were 3.5 million teachers in U.S. elementary and secondary schools; by 2015, it is projected that 4.0 million will be required (NCES, 2006). Approximately 100,000 new teachers are added to the U.S. workforce each year; yet there is a shortage of them in many regions of the country, particularly in rural and urban areas with a pressing need for teachers of mathematics, science, foreign languages, and special education.
The demand for teachers is aggravated by a serious increase in the turnover rate; teachers are entering and then leaving the profession at a faster rate than they ever have before. Teacher turnover is a critical issue in the nation's schools and comes at enormous economic cost to school districts. A report from the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future (NCTAF) issued in July 2007 estimated the national total at $7 billion a year. Money is not the only issue, according to the report, "low performing schools rarely close the student achievement gap because they never close the teaching quality gap - they are constantly rebuilding their staff" (Barnes, Crowe & Schaefer, 2007, p. 2). Another study in Texas found that there was an alarming 40 percent turnover rate for public school teachers in that state in their first three years (Darling-Hammond, 2003).
According to National Center for Education Statistics, new teachers are leaving the profession within three years of beginning their careers (Marvel, Lyter, Peltola, Strizek, & Morton, 2006). The problem may never be fully avoided, as those who find they aren't suited to it should not stay; however, studies verify that poor working conditions (perceived or real) greatly discourage promising teachers. Competition from more attractive professions, low salaries, and the difficulties of having to deal with administrative hurdles or social problems in the schools are reasons cited by those who decide not to enter the teaching field, and also by those who decide to leave it.
What is do be done to stem the turnover tide? Who is responsible for ensuring that U.S. public schools retain, as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) requires, a "highly qualified" teacher workforce? More than ever it is critical that the processes of recruiting, hiring and retaining teachers be given attention by those on the frontlines of developing the teacher corps. The burden to ensure that each student is taught by a highly qualified teacher falls on the schools of education that produce potential teachers and the principals and school boards who later hire them.
Recruitment is the process of working to ensure a pool of quality teachers; hiring involves selecting the most suitable highly-qualified candidates from the pool. Recruitment starts at the high school level as colleges with teacher education programs attract students. Most teachers make the decision in college whether to pursue the profession, but increasingly popular alternate certification routes also allow career-changers the opportunity to enter the ranks.
Given a pool of certified educators and potential applicants, it is up to school district administrators and their principals to attract and recruit and staff their schools. Depending on need and the level of competition for qualified teachers in their region, some school districts go about this more aggressively than others. Budget strapped school districts want to avoid paying incentives or worse, hiring less than qualified individuals to meet emergency teaching needs. Kenneth Peterson (2002) recommends that each district have a teacher selection task force, which should be a standing committee that recommends hiring policies (p.8).
Munoz, Winter and Ronau (2003) present the best practices used by Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, Kentucky to fill their nearly 800 teaching vacancies each year. They point out that there are few studies and documentation of best practices on recruiting and surveyed newly hired teachers on the district's recruitment processes. The researchers were not surprised that advertisement of salary and benefits was key to attracting top applicants, but were concerned to find that teachers were most critical of the administrative responsiveness to applicant inquiries and further requests for information. The New Teacher Project study, backed by similar data showed that administrative practices drive the best applicants away and discredited the notion that urban schools cannot attract qualified applicants. The study found that "with good recruiting strategies, urban districts can draw five or more applicants for every opening" (Gerwitz, 2003, para 2).
Model Education Programs
Model education programs are creating schools of professional development, similar to teaching hospitals, as they work closely with school districts to create an experiential environment for their students. Linda Darling-Hammond (2005) has conducted research and written prolifically on issues related to preparing teachers. She advocates for rigorous pre-service development and says that "research has shown that many of these schools have improved teaching practice and student achievement, while building professional knowledge" (Darling-Hammond, 2005, p. 23). She also recommends that U.S. education learn lessons from other countries that have moved pedagogical instruction to the graduate level and practicum "with strong undergraduate preparation in the disciplines" (p. 24).
A state-issued certificate is the basic qualifier to teach in all fifty states. In addition to an appropriate college degree, it may also "… include a requirement of good moral character … specified courses, practice teaching" (Imber, 2004, p. 399). All but a few states now require testing for initial certification. School districts, however, may impose additional certification requirements such as residency, passing physicals or meeting continuing education requirements (p. 400). Certification is by no means an indicator of teaching competence and certification may be revoked.
Critics say that alternative certification routes do not provide practical experience. Likewise, critics also argue that NCLB's "highly qualified" teacher requirements are not stringent enough about verifying teaching skills. What is lacking, some critics charge, is the law's emphasis on subject knowledge over classroom skills. There is continued debate about the need to balance education in teaching skills with knowledge of the core subjects that the teacher must teach. However, state certification requirements test subject knowledge and at the same time there are encouraging innovations in teacher education that "… allow more extensive study of specific disciplines, along with more intensive clinical training in schools" (Darling-Hammond, 2005, p. 23). Ideally, a key benefit of a good teacher education program is that graduates have had hands-on opportunities, beyond student teaching, to hone skills. Students who know better what they are getting into have better odds when they make the leap into the job market.
Hiring Highly Qualified Teachers
The key player in hiring and retaining teachers is the school principal. As the primary interface with teachers and administration, model principals are lead teachers. According to Heller (2004), the best principals create a family within the school and the teachers are integrated into it. (p. 40) Clearly, hiring teachers and principals who will promote high standards for all students is essential in improving achievement and equity in our schools.
Stronge (2006) lays out criteria for effective teachers. In the earliest research conducted on effective teachers, he says, the emphasis was on studying "personality:" i.e., investing whether the individual had the right temperament to teach. Today, the requirements are more exacting. He lists:
• Prerequisites of effective teaching (verbal ability, content knowledge, coursework, certification, teaching experience),
• Personal attributes;
• Classroom management and organization,
• Planning for instruction,
• Instructional delivery and
• Monitoring student progress and potential (Stronge, 2006, p. 11).
The question is what is the best method to select the most effective teachers? Peterson recommends a very customized process that is laid out for a school district by a standing hiring committee. He recommends close scrutiny of all of the teachers' credentials and other requiring demonstration of ability including written essays, a portfolio, and work samples (Peterson, 2002, p. 43).
The NEXT project at Harvard University has also conducted research on teacher hiring exploring the "fit" of teachers after they have been hired. An affiliate of NEXT, Edward Liu (2005) conducted a four-state study of new teachers and their...
(The entire section is 4403 words.)