Recruiting new educators to be profession-ready requires some upfront planning and effort, whether they are starting their career in a front office, classroom, school bus, cafeteria, or elsewhere in the school system.
There are several recruitment solutions that can help prepare us for the future, including the following:
Ensure Profession-Ready Educators Through Comprehensive Educator Preparation Programs
Comprehensive educator preparation programs require potential educators to utilize intensive clinical placements under the guidance of an expert mentor and include coursework on student learning and development, content and teaching methods, cultural competence, and ways to differentiate instruction.
Teachers who lack intensive clinical experience and coursework have been shown to be two to three times more likely to leave the profession than those who have this type of preparation. Likewise, research has demonstrated that teachers who enter the profession through an alternative preparation program, many of which provide less coursework and experience than traditional programs, are 25 percent more likely to leave their schools and teaching, even after controlling for other factors.
On average, teachers of color have been more likely to enter the teaching profession through alternative certification programs and, therefore, are less likely to have formalized training compared to other teachers.
Teachers are not the only educators that benefit from specialized training and preparation. ESPs often report not being sufficiently prepared or trained for their roles in education. In a 2016–2017 survey conducted by the NEA, 72 percent of ESPs felt “somewhat” or “not very well” prepared for entry into their profession. Of those educators who did feel prepared, they cited higher education coursework, apprenticeships, and mentoring as most helpful in their preparation.
Create Welcoming and Supportive Pathways for Candidates of Color and LGBTQ+ Candidates
Formal teacher preparation programs must provide an equitable pathway to teaching to increase recruitment of candidates of color.
We must ensure programs are culturally responsive, actively reduce racial or ethnic bias within the program, provide a safe and nurturing environment for all candidates, center critical issues in the curriculum, and work to correct the racial and ethnic barriers that make it difficult for candidates of color to become teachers.
By taking these actions, we can help diversify the teaching profession while also increasing educator numbers.
Similarly, to attract LGBTQ+ teacher candidates and help educate all teacher candidates to better serve their students, it is vital that teacher preparation programs include LGBTQ+ issues.
Practices and policies within teacher preparation programs and K–12 schools have often reinforced heteronormative perspectives that exclude LGBTQ+ persons and issues.
By actively examining policy and practice and recruiting LGBTQ+ candidates, we can provide teacher preparation programs that help disrupt the rigid gender and sexual binaries that often endanger students and create an unwelcoming environment for teachers.
Create and Implement Grow Your Own (GYO) and Apprenticeship Programs
GYO programs are designed to identify promising teacher candidates from local communities and school systems and provide candidates with tuition, time, and materials as they train to become teachers.
Programs can focus on nontraditional candidates, career-changers, high school students, education support professionals, or any other adults in the community who may be interested in becoming a teacher.
While, as of this writing, all but one state (Wyoming) has such a program, they vary widely in focus and structure. The most common type of program is designed to introduce high school students to the teaching field.
These programs embed education-focused coursework and field experiences in the regular curriculum, giving students the opportunity to explore teaching as a career option. In contrast, paraeducator pathway programs—which are also quite common—focus on helping current school employees obtain teaching certification while continuing to work.
Paraeducators often have specialized backgrounds working with English language learners or students with special needs that make them particularly strong candidates for GYO opportunities.
Many GYO programs have demonstrated success in recruiting, training, and placing new teachers. Recruiting from local communities helps to diversify the education field; however, to be successful in building cultural and community-focused capital, these programs must operate from an equity and racial and social justice perspective and prioritize the knowledge, skills, and experiences of candidates of color and multilingual candidates.
Funding for GYO and apprenticeship programs may come from a variety of sources, including, but not limited to,
- ESSA Title II,
- the American Rescue Plan Act, and
- U.S. Department of Labor apprenticeship grants.
Promote Residency Programs
A teacher residency program integrates a full-time, full-year clinical experience with coursework prior to being employed as the teacher-of-record.
Contrary to a typical semester-long student teaching experience, aspiring educators can see how a teacher begins and ends the year as well as receive a dedicated mentor and stipend throughout the entire school year.
Studies have found that residency programs have helped recruit teachers for hard-to-staff schools, diversify the teacher candidate pool, and increase retention rates.
Title II of the Higher Education Grant has a program titled Teacher Quality Partnership Grants, which contains targeted funding for teacher residencies.
Offset the Costs of Teacher Preparation and Student Teaching
The cost of an undergraduate degree has increased exponentially over the last several years, creating a barrier for many aspiring educators—especially candidates of color and bilingual candidates.
In addition, on top of paying tuition, candidates pursuing an education degree must participate in a clinical experience. In many programs, that includes, at minimum, a full-time student-teaching placement.
During this time, aspiring educators are advised that they should not work another job, which can create further financial hardship.
A few federal programs exist to support those individuals pursuing education degrees, such as TEACH grants, Teacher Loan Forgiveness, and Public Service Loan Forgiveness, and some states offer similar programs; however, federal and state governments should dedicate more dollars to scholarships and grants for individuals—particularly, aspiring educators of color—who want to become educators.
During student teaching, aspiring educators should receive a stipend that covers the cost of living at the very minimum. This could come in the form of waiving tuition for the semester, federal work-study, or other funds to support the initiative.
Some programs also incorporate transportation and child care supports—basic needs that are especially helpful to ESPs.
Those scholarship and grant programs that have successfully attracted teacher candidates generally offer a substantial award covering most or all costs for an undergraduate and/or graduate degree, target high-need fields, and recruit for hard-to-staff schools and districts.
Candidates who came into the profession through such a program have been shown to be more effective than their peers and more likely to stay in the profession for five years or more.
Scholarship programs that specifically focus on recruiting candidates of color can lessen the financial burden of an education degree and bring greater diversity to the profession.
Improve Hiring Practices
Public schools use often-complex processes to hire educators, resulting in decisions that are, in one study’s estimation, “late, rushed, and information-poor.”
With respect to timing, studies have shown that in some districts, up to 30 percent of new hires are brought on after the start of the school year.
Teachers hired later in the summer or after the school year started have had lower effects on student achievement and have been more likely to leave the profession than those hired earlier in the year. Late hiring is most prevalent among schools with higher proportions of students living in poverty, thereby increasing already-existing resource inequities.
Late hiring also contributes to a lack of information: Research has shown that when teachers are hired in the summer, other educators may not be available to participate in the hiring process, and prospective hires are unable to see what a school is like when it is in session, making a poor fit more likely.
According to a 2020 NEA survey, about 40 percent of ESPs are laid off in the summer and then rehired in the fall, further exacerbating staff shortages. This interruption in employment affects the benefits, pensions, and patterns of reliable income for the most diverse and lowest-paid segment of the educator workforce. It also provides these educators with an incentive to pursue employment outside of education.
With compensation rising faster in the private sector than for government positions, these workers might decide not to return to their ESP positions in the fall.
To improve hiring, school districts and local unions should work together through collective bargaining and labor-management collaboration where collective bargaining does not exist. This gives both parties an opportunity to agree on practices that will acknowledge and respect current educators while also helping to attract the best talent to the district.
Promising practices include offering financial incentives for educators to announce retirements earlier; working with central and government offices to get budget and enrollment information earlier; and providing opportunities for current staff to engage with and share their thoughts on prospective colleagues.
Solutions in Action
- Minneapolis Special Education Teaching Residency Program (MSTR), which combines an affordable, accelerated master’s degree program at the University of St. Thomas with a year-long co-teaching experience in a MPS classroom. This program aims to recruit, prepare, and retain highly qualified teachers who share similar life experiences as the students who attend MPS. It’s open to anyone with a bachelor’s degree who would like to become an MPS teacher, but preference is given to current MPS employees.
- Alaska, Napakiak (na pak “e” ak), Alaska -- T.E.A.C.H. program (Training Educators for Achieving Certificated Hire). This Grow Your Own program assists candidates from the district who are fluent or literate in Yugtun (Yuptin), the language spoken by Central Alaskan Natives, in becoming certified teachers in partnership with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Kuskowkwim (Kus ka kwim) campus.
- Tennessee is the first state to be approved by the U.S. Department of Labor to establish the first every Teacher Occupation Apprenticeship program with Clarksville-Montgomery County School System and Austin Peay State University. This program is supported by the TEA and the NEA.
- New York launched an apprenticeship program for teacher preparation through the NY Department of Labor.
- Iowa recently launched the nation’s first Teacher and Paraeducator Registered Apprenticeship Grant program. The Iowa Department of Education and the Iowa Workforce Development Agency will use $9M from ARP ESSER funds to create the program, which will train current high school students and paraeducators for the next step in their teaching careers.