Last year my son didn’t have a teacher. Just substitute after substitute until March when a long term substitute finally came along. He is in a segregated, special education classroom filled with our most vulnerable students who need consistency and support. My daughter had lost 3 teachers at her school by Christmas break. We obviously have a real recruitment and retainment issue in this district.
However, recruiting and retaining teachers is not something that is unique to Indian River County. We have a nationwide teacher shortage. Not enough people are choosing to become teachers. Those that do sometimes find themselves in classrooms with little support, a wide range of pupil issues and low pay. These factors cause many to leave the profession.
Regardless, there are many ways we can still recruit. Once we have teachers, there are ways to ensure we retain them.
Teacher salaries are below what other professions are paying recent college graduates and skilled workers. Salaries are often too low to support a middle class existence. Many teachers have second or side jobs to survive.
In Indian River county the average teacher salary is $47,589. Compared to other surrounding school districts – Martin, Brevard, St. Lucie, Osceola, and according to hours in the classroom, IRC is #3 in pay. Looking at health insurance, IRC ranks 5th in how much annual board contribution is made. Meaning, the other 4 districts contribute more to employee health care than our district. Which essentially makes their pay even less.
Below are some of my ideas on how we can recruit and retain. It will take some work, and results won’t be immediate, but I believe we can create a school district that teachers and staff will want to come to work in and stay.
So what do we do?
· We build an employment package for teachers that is competitive with surrounding districts to ensure our teachers stay.
· We listen to existing teachers through the Teaching, Empowering, Leading and Learning (TELL) survey. We collect data on teachers that are leaving and their reasons for leaving. We gather their feedback about current working conditions and create a plan based on their feedback about how to better retain and recruit teachers.
· We work diligently at the state level to make public education a priority so our schools are funded and teacher pay is equalized (something both Connecticut and North Carolina have done to solve teacher shortages).
· We give teachers an allowance for classroom supplies. This will be an incentive that will not only entice teachers, but also retain them.
· We begin working with colleges in Florida state to build stronger relationships with education students and create networks that will develop higher quality candidates.
o Note: Research shows that students attend college where they envision themselves living. Going to other states to recruit is not necessarily the answer.
· We strengthen our hiring practices. Hiring doesn’t just involve human resources. It should be a joint effort with administrators who oversee curriculum and professional development, principals, teachers and support staff. A strong base for hiring will seek out more qualified candidates. A strong base will also show new teachers that there is a support system for them which leads to retention.
· There is funding in Title II of the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) that provides resources for low-income schools to attract and retain high quality teachers. We begin utilizing this resource.
· We look at ways to offset debt loads in teacher preparation studies with scholarships and teaching programs that involve debt forgiveness. Without the pressure of student loans, graduates will be more willing to take lower paying jobs.
· We also begin looking at pathways for current staff, who are interested in becoming teachers, that will allow them to continue to work and get credit for that work towards a teaching certificate.
· We utilize “Grow Your Own” teacher preparation program by recruiting talented individuals from our community to enter teaching and support them along the way to ensure they return and serve our community.
· We create a “Teacher Cadet” program for high school students who are interested in becoming teachers.
· Develop teacher residency programs that recruit teacher candidates that are looking to practice and hone their skills alongside an effective teacher, pay them a stipend while they are in the program, and in return commit to teach in the district for 3 or more years. Utilize the funds to do this from the Higher Education Act Teacher Quality Partnership grants, AmeriCorps stipends, and other foundations.
· Grants, such as Supporting Effective Educator Development Program, can help create induction programs that will lead to higher retention rates.
· Grants, such as The Teacher and School Leader Incentive Fund help support performance-based compensation systems and provide incentives for retention.
· We utilize ESSA funding for high quality principal preparation programs that will support principal mentoring and professional development opportunities to enhance effective school leadership skills. This will create supportive, positive school cultures and quality schools which lead to higher retention rates.
· We provide supports for new teacher:
o Mentoring and coaching from experienced teachers in the same subject or grade level – with increased pay and responsibility to the mentor teacher
o Observations of experienced teachers
o Orientation, retreats and seminars that address common classroom management and topic areas
o Reduced caseloads and extra classroom assistance
· Create collaborative and supportive work environments through:
o Strong and effective school leadership and administrative support
o Professional development and collaboration
o Shared decision making, commitment and responsibility
o Strong accountability systems
· Advocate at the legislative level for reduced testing and requirements. Our students are over-tested and our teachers are fed up with teaching to the test, mandated curriculum and their inability to teach in ways that are more effective.
· Offer housing incentives. Whether it is actual teacher housing or federal/state programs that assist with purchasing homes, it can be offered on a conditional basis that requires the teacher to stay in the district for a set number of years.
These are just a few ideas I have that we can begin building on. As I do more research I will add to this list.
We can, and we must, not continue to have a cavalier attitude about teacher recruitment and retention. This problem is not going to go away unless we begin to think out of the box and create programs that will reduce the lack of teachers we currently have.
If you have any ideas on how to better recruit and retain staff, please email me. I would love to hear your ideas and feedback.