Education Chat

Chat Transcript: A Highly Qualified Teacher for Every Classroom: Teacher Recruitment and Retention

Three experts discuss the problem of recruiting and retaining high-quality teachers who leave schools due to frustration for a variety of work conditions.

A Highly Qualified Teacher for Every Classroom:
Teacher Recruitment and Retention

About our Guests:

Richard Ingersoll, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania who deals with the management and organization of schools and the character and problems of the teaching occupation.

Adam Urbanski, president of the Rochester (New York) Teachers Association and leader of a national alliance of reform-minded teacher unions; and

Victoria VanCleef, a vice-president at The New Teacher Project

Kathryn Doherty, Education Week (Moderator):
Welcome to this TalkBack Live chat on finding and keeping good teachers, sponsored by Education Week and Agent K-12 (Education Week’s new online recruitment service).

We are happy to have three insightful and informative guests today. Richard Ingersoll is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania whose research is concerned with the management and organization of schools and the character and problems of the teaching occupation. He also has done extensive research on the problems of teacher shortages and underqualified teachers. Adam Urbanski is president of the Rochester (New York) Teachers Association and a leader of a national alliance of reform-minded teacher unions. Last, but not least, Victoria VanCleef is a vice-president at The New Teacher Project, a non-profit group dedicated to helping districts and schools recruit, train, and keep the best and brightest in teaching.

My name is Kathryn Doherty, and I am the director of special research projects here at Education Week. I will be moderator for the session. With introductions out of the way, let’s jump right into questions...

Question from Renee Moore, NBCT, Lead Teacher, Broad Street High School, Shelby, MS:
Some research I’ve seen indicates many teachers leave the profession because of frustration with related to their working conditions (other than pay and student discipline). What can be done at the school level to give teachers more control over the issues that affect us daily?

Richard Ingersoll:
The data show that one of the factors behind teacher turnover is how much control and influence teachers have over the key decisions that affect their daily jobs. The data show that schools vary dramatically -- from top-down places where teachers have little say in key decisions, to more bottom-up places where decisionmaking is more shared and collective. The data also tell us that the former places have far more teacher turnover than the latter. I have found in my own research that one of the most consequential of these decisions for teachers is how much say they have over student behavioral and discipline issues. There is far less teacher turnover in schools where teachers are allowed more control over the rules as to which kinds of student behavior are and are not acceptable and over the content and enforcement of these rules and norms. If you are interested in more on this research, you might look at my recently published book: “Who Controls Teachers Work? Power and Accountability in America’s Schools.”

Question from Janet L. Bourdon, MN State Dept. of Education:
What should be done to look at school finance in order to pay teachers more and offer incentives/performance based increases?

Adam Urbanski:
First and foremost, differentiated pay should be based on an adequate and competitive base for all teachers. Criteria for differentiating teachers’ salaries must be credible to teachers themselves and tied to differentiated roles. Pay for knowledge, skills and service is a promising direction. Examples: NBPTS, dual certification, mentoring new teachers, etc. Merit pay is a disaster. Consideration of value-added may be a factor in the future but not ready for prime time yet.

Question from Jennifer Dorsen, Project Director, EDC:
I have been working on finding ways for potential teachers (undergrad, grad or mid-career) to try out teaching and get some experience beyond subbing or tutoring. What exists for those people? What are the paths that new teachers take to decide if they will become teachers?

Victoria VanCleef:
I don’t know of any low-stakes way to jump into the classroom. That said, there is no substitute for spending time in schools to help someone make that decision. It might be that observing, volunteering, subbing or tutoring are the best options we have available. As a part of our recruitment efforts and new teacher orientations, we ensure that our applicants to talk teachers who are currently working in high need schools so that they get a real sense of the challenges they will be facing once they get in the classroom.

We have found that most career changers have thought about teaching for a long time. Almost every state has legislation creating alternate routes to the classroom, unfortunately these programs often remain quite small. States, school districts and universities could do much to publicize these pathways and make them more known to potential applicants.

Kathryn Doherty:
Many of you submitted questions asking -- Just what is the definition of a “highly qualified” teacher? I asked each guest to tackle one such question from the audience. Here’s what each had to say...

Question from Ray Strle, Teacher, Bolingbrook high school:
I would like to know what the exact definition of a highly qualified teacher is. I have yet to see this defined in any quantifiable, measurable way . Without such a quantified measurable definition I think all talk of retaining such people in the profession is moot.

Richard Ingersoll:
As in many occupations, it is very difficult to fairly and accurately assess employee quality in teaching. Hence, as in many occupations, assessments of teacher quality usually focus on measures of teacher qualifications -- which are more easily quantified. The latter are, of course, only rough proxies for the caliber of the teachers’ actual performance in classrooms. But, most agree that having some qualifications is a necessary prerequisite for being a quality teacher. Moreover, contrary to what some claim, there are indeed empirical studies documenting that teacher qualifications do matter for student achievement. Which qualifications are necessary is a source of much debate. After much discussion, the No Child Left Behind Act defined a “highly qualified” teacher as someone who has a bachelor’s degree, who holds a regular teaching certificate and who is “competent” in the academic subjects they are assigned to teach.

Question from Richard Davis, Graduate Student, University of Southern Mississippi:
What exactly is a “highly qualified teacher?”

Adam Urbanski:
A highly qualified teacher knows the subject area/content well, knows how to help students learn (pedagogy), connects the students’ learning to their lives and experiences, involes the students’ families and communities, considers the learning outcomes and adjusts his/her teaching to increase the prospects for learning and to decrease the chances for failure, respects students and cares about their learning, seeks new knowledge and feels the responsibility to access it.

Question from Clara Fitzpatrick Columbia College Chicago:
What makes a highly qualified teacher for whom? Is there a difference in highly qualified depending upon the student body? I am not talking about the ridiculous rush to specify testing requirements for highly qualified, rather, how do we determine who is highly qualified?

Victoria VanCleef:
No one knows exactly what it is that makes a great teacher, but a few points of general agreement have emerged. Most observers believe that a teacher’s verbal ability, as measured on a standardized test, is a good, and perhaps the best, predictor of teacher effectiveness at raising student achievement. Also, content knowledge and content-specific pedagogy seem to be linked to student achievement. In addition, most agree that having at least one or two years of teaching experience is linked to student achievement. How to determine these characteristics is still somewhat an open question, but we do believe that these are some of the elements that make a good teacher for all sorts of students. I think the real challenge is that you cannot determine how good a teacher will be until they step into the classroom. Ultimately judging high quality ought to be based on how they do affecting gains in student achievement.

Question from Mark Trentacoste, Adjunct Prof., Rutgers-Camden:
Is teacher retention a problem only during the first few years of the career? Do teachers with more than 5 or 10 years experience have much turnover? Is turnover a problem mostly for inner cities or does it include affluent suburbs? Do teachers who leave lower-income schools continue in teaching elsewhere or do they leave the profession? Have any districts tried “golden handcuffs” such as deferred bonuses? If so, how effective have they been?

Richard Ingersoll:
A number of studies have documented that retention is a very serious problem for beginning teachers during their first few years on the job. After a few years on the job, the rates of turnover drop off dramatically. The data also show that turnover is far more of a problem in urban, poor schools than in suburban, affluent schools. About half of the departures out of schools are movers -- those who move to another school -- and about half are leavers -- those who leave the occupation altogether. Yes, there appears to be some interest in slowing retirement through incentives such as “golden handcuffs” but I know of no studies that have established how effective these are. You may be interested in a report where I have presented data on these issues in more detail. It is entitled “Is There Really A Teacher Shortage?” To download free copies, go to and look in the Publications section.

Question from Bill Harshbarger, teacher, Mattoon High School, Mattoon, Illinois:
Recruiting is a problem because retention is the issue. Young teachers don’t stay because they find their teaching experience disappointing or distasteful or destructive. Is anything being done to improve the quality of the job instead of focusing all reform on the inadequacy of the teachers?

Richard Ingersoll:
Until recently almost all of the policy attention has been on teacher recruitment. There are dozen of clever initiatives, such as Troops to Teachers, signing bonuses, student loan forgiveness, etc. And, yes, you are exactly right. While perhaps worthwhile, such teacher recruitment efforts will not solve the staffing problems many schools face unless more attention is paid to teacher retention. The image that always comes to my mind is pouring water in a bucket with holes in the bottom. But, there now appears to be growing policy interest in improving teacher retention. A good example is the recent efforts of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future. You might be interested in their report “No Dream Denied.” Free copies can be dowloaded from

Question from Vicky Dill, Director, Round Rock ISD:
In my experience, well-structured and highly monitored alternative certification programs have been as successful as well-structured and highly monitored traditional programs. However, as deregulation has increased, the monitoring function seems to be dropping away and retention in alternative programs is down. Do you agree with this and what other reasons would you say are crucial in the effort to retain midcareer switchers?

Victoria VanCleef:
While I haven’t seen the data that you refer to, you are certainly right to point out that there are lots of different types of alternate route programs. We believe that our retention rates are based upon a rigorous selection model and a well-structured pre-service training program. Those components have been essential to the success of our programs.

Our data suggests that mid-career teachers leave for many of the same reasons that traditional first-year teachers leave - the quality of school leadership and the quality of school climate. It is also interesting that the data shows that the highest achieving teachers are the first to leave. High achieving mid-career changers want what all high achieving teachers want, strong leadership and collegial, professional faculty relationships. Addressing these areas, as well as providing teachers with the support and training they need to be as effective as possible, so that they can feel effective at achieving student gains, might be the best investment we can make to increase retention.

Question from Sam Gomberg, principal Shalhevet High School:
I am struggling with certain veteran teachers who feel they need no further or real professional development. They teach as they have been taught and, for example, more or less reject the powerful research associated with small group work, i.e., cooperative learning etc. They are excellent stand up frontal teacher/lecturers/discussion leaders but feel they need not at this stage of their career worry about expanding their repertoire of teaching strategies. What would be an approach you could recommend in dealing with this all too often product of our educational enterprise. These old dogs are not interested in learning new tricks.

Adam Urbanski:
Someone (Phil Schlechty?) said that nobody likes to be changed except wet babies... Most teachers recognize that it is their professional responsibility to learn continuously. some are reluctant to embrace changes quickly because they know that we have a long history of change without improvement. On the other hand, though, we can’t have improvement without change. We just have to persuade teachers that the changes we propose are indeed improvements. That is why changes should be accompanied by compelling eveidence that they are research-based and proven in practice.

Question from Marty Henry, President, M. A. Henry Consulting, St. Louis:
Dr. Ingersoll:

My concern is with retaining experienced teachers (5+ years). When these teachers leave the classroom they take with them the history and knowledge of the culture of the district, plus the pedagogical knowledge that comes with years of teaching young people. What are the critical variables on which school systems should focus to retain these experienced teachers?

Thank you.

Richard Ingersoll:
You are right -- there are important costs and consequences of teacher turnover and these have been largely overlooked. The data point to four aspects of schools as factors behind turnover: teacher salaries; student discipline problems; administrative support, especially for new teachers and how much influence and say teachers have over the key decision that affect their jobs. Improving these, while not easy, would lead to decreases in teacher turnover, would, in turn, slow down the “revolving door” that plagues many schools and, finally, do alot to undermine the so-called teacher shortage.

Question from Koren Buttleman, Student, Traverse City Christian School:
What grade or subject has the greatest demand for teachers?

Richard Ingersoll:
In general, math, science and special education have the highest teacher turnover and, hence, the highest demand.

Question from Timothy Kelly, Taxpayer, Texas:
Why are the Teacher’s Unions so against giving emergency certification to anyone with a college degree, especially experts in math, science, and other subjects where teachers are greatly needed? Taking education courses does not train one to teach any specific subject. A good case can be made that the more education courses one has, the worst one does in the classroom.

Adam Urbanski:
I’m not trying to say that all education courses are useful, but effective teaching requires more than knowledge of the subject matter. Responsible teacher unions take teacher quality seriously. That means having standards for what teachers should know and be able to do. As the late AFT President Albert Shanker used to say, “Saying that all you have to do to be a good teacher is to love to teach would be like saying that all you have to do to be a good surgeon is to love to cut.”

Question from Nilda Garcia Simms, Lead Consultant, Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL):
What strategies are proving to be effective in the recruitment of teachers of color, especially those qualified to teach English Language Learners?

Victoria VanCleef:
Our alternate route programs typically bring in a highly diverse population, with more than 40% of our new teachers being people of color. We have found that referrals from district staff can be a significant source of diverse new appliacnts. But that means that it is critical that all district staff have a good understanding of the various pathways and programs that lead into the classroom. Targeted internet recruitment has also been a strong source of new teachers, particularly in seeking out websites that cater to particular populations. Diversifying the traditional strategies that are employed when it comes to recruiting at schools of education is another important strategy for getting a more diverse teacher population. We have found that it is important to move beyond career fairs and get into individual college classrooms and to build relationships with specific faculty.

Question from Hal Portner, Consultant & Author, Teacher Induction & Mentoring:
Adam Urbanski, how does Rocherster (and, to your knowledge, other school districts) provide meaningful collaboration of its teachers union, administration, and school board in the induction and support of new teachers? If this is the case, how has doing so affected the district’s culture? Thank you.

Adam Urbanski:
Because we are in an equal partnership with the district - and because we believe that ensuring teaching quality is union work - we do this by involving our Lead Teachers in the process of recruiting prospective teachers, participating in a week-long pre-service orientation of new teachers, assigning a Mentor Teacher to every new teacher, involving Mentor Teachers in the evaluation of new teachers through peer review, and sheltering new teachers from the toughest assignments. Virtually all this is captured in our collective bargaining agreement. Our culture is now indeed different and more collaborative. Teachers are very supportive, especially when they notice the resultant improvements in teaching and learning conditions.

Question from Kathryn Doherty:
A few of our audience members have submitted questions about teachers who may be deemed NOT “highly qualified” under No Child Left Behind (NCLB). A question for Adam Urbanski -- What is the position of the teachers’ unions on this provision of NCLB? Are the unions providing any recourse for teachers affected by this law?

Adam Urbanski:
My understanding is that much of the details is left up to the individual states. Teacher unions should work with the respective state education agencies to ensure good and doable interpretations.

Kathryn Doherty, Education Week (Moderator):
A number of questions also came in asking our guests their opinions on recruiting teachers internationally. Here’s what they had to say...

Question from K. Nawrotzki, Lecturer, School of Education, Heidelberg, Germany:
Some educational markets in the US have taken to hiring teachers from outside the country in order to fill empty posts, a strategy long used in other professional fields (e.g. medicine). What potential do you see for international teacher recruitment to solve both short- and long-term staffing problems in US primary and secondary schools? Or would that be globalization gone too far?

Richard Ingersoll:
I see overseas teacher recruitment as short term fix, at best. Underlying this strategy, as in other teacher recruitment initiatives, lies the assumption that we suffer from a supply-side problem -- that we produce too few teachers to meet our needs. The data show, however, that we train more teachers than we need, that almost half of those trained to become teachers do not ever teach, and that of those that do enter teaching, almost half leave within five years on the job. All this argues that the source of the problem is not that we produce too few candidates, but that too many candidates leave prematurely. Hence, the data suggest that recruitment (from overseas or domestically) will not solve the problem if retention is ignored.

Question from Jim Vetter, Program Director, Open Circle Program, Wellesley College:
What are key components of an effective mentoring program to support new teachers?

Adam Urbanski:
Effective mentoring programs should be within the context of labor-management collaboration, captured in collective bargaining agreements, make internship a condition of employment, governed jointly by the school district and the teachers’ union, include peer review, select mentors jointly, assign mentors from the new teachers’ subject areas and grade levels, provide pre-service training to mentors, reduce the mentors’ teaching load, include stipends/pay differentials to mentors, commit to funding the program for the long haul.

Question from Danielle Essex, Teacher, Chicago Public Schools:
What do you think are some of the main reasons it is so difficult to retain quality teachers in urban schools and what can be done to stem the tide?

Victoria VanCleef:
Most of the research indicates that teachers leave the classroom because of the quality of school leadership and the quality of school culture. I think there is an important piece of research to really refine our understanding of those two indicators, however, there is clearly much room to invest in increasing the capacity of school leadership and improving the quality of professional faculty relationships and overall school climate. The data, however, also raises some interesting policy questions. It appears that teachers who leave in the first year are most likely to leave in the first three months. So that suggests that improving support during this crucial first semester could be tremendously valuable. Also, we know that if teachers make it through their third year, their chances of staying in the classroom increases. This suggests that we should be exploring building financial incentives into the salary schedules in these first three critical years that reward new teachers and encourage them to stay. Long term, I think that better pay is important, particularly to incent teachers to go into some of the harder to staff schools and to stay there once they hit their stride. Clearly pay and career growth over time are critical, particularly for high achieving people. And this is a challenge that the education community is going to have to address.

Question from Jeanita Ives, Science Teacher, Turner High School, Turner USD202, Kansas City, KA:
I find the differing state regulations on certification to be overly burdenson and constantly changing. It is most discouraging for talented teachers who have left the field and moved to other states to have to face such arbitrary rules and constantly justify the education one received in their field from a University in one state to another state. Why are states not moving toward reciprocal certification instead of away from it?

Adam Urbanski:
I’m not sure why we are not moving toward reciprocal certification but I am sure that we should.

Question from Brent Busboom, English Teacher, Reno High School, Reno, NV:
Do you believe that so many teachers leave the field in the first five years because of poor teacher preparation at colleges and universities? If so, what should the ideal (a debatable term, I know) preparation program look like?

Adam Urbanski:
I’m sure that there are lots of different reasons why so many teachers leave in the first five years of teaching: poor preparation; inadequate support from administrators; low pay; lack of parental involvement; terrible working conditions; student discipline problems; lack of say on the job; no opportunities for advancement; large class sizes. Many, of course, leave for family or personal reasons. As to the ideal teacher preparation program, others who are better qualified than I should weigh in. But I do think it should emphasize subject matter knowledge as much as pedagogy. And it should involve the best Pre-K through 12 practitioners as faculty.

Question from Jennifer Maginnis, Instructional Support Coordinator, Chatham Central School District:
Are NYS permanently certified teachers automatically considered to be “highly qualified” per NCLB? If not, will they have to take the content specialty tests that new teachers have to take?

Adam Urbanski:
It depends on the certification area. In most cases, yes. However, for example, elementary certified teachers who obtained permanent certification prior to 1984 are not automatically highly qualified because they were not required at that time to take certification exams.

Teachers who have permanent certification but are not under the definition of highly qualified can become so defined by using the Highly Objective Uniform State Standard of Evaluation (HOUSSE), which in NYS does not include taking a test. A teacher must earn 100 points, where points are given for various qualifications and experience, such as 50 points for a positive performance evaluation, 10-15 points/year of experience, 100 points for NBPTS certification, etc.

Question from Jeanette Vickery, Elementary teacher (currently teacher aide), Crown Point Community School Corporation:
Is there an argument for or research on the possibility of developing and implementing a national TEACHER education curriculum with preliminary NATIONAL teacher certification in response to the problem of teacher turnover and retainment?

Adam Urbanski:
That’d be nice. Not sure if thetre is research but think that one could certainly make an argument for a national teacher education curriculum. Would love to hear from teacher educators on this.

Question from Patricia McDiarmid, Assistant Professor, Springfield College,Springfield, Massachusetts:
Are new teacher mentoring programs truly impacting teacher retention rates for public schools?

Richard Ingersoll:
Yes, I just completed an analysis of national data that looked at whether teacher mentoring matters. After controlling for other characteristics of teachers and schools, we found that 1st year teachers who received mentoring were significantly more likely to stay for a second year on the job. We also found that having the mentor in one’s field helped.

Question from Eleanor Chute, education writer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
What do you think of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards? Can it play a significant role in improving teacher quality? What do you think of the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence? What role can it play? Thank you.

Victoria VanCleef:
I think we support all groups trying to help identify what makes a quality teacher, both before they begin teaching and once they are in the classoom. We need tools for improving pre-service and professional development, but also new vehicles for making judgements about teachers for purposes of pay and promotion down the road. To the extent that new tools are shown to be valid and reliable, they could make an important contribution.

Question from Will Driscoll, parent, Arlington School District:
Adam, I’m a fan of basing pay on teacher effectiveness, as measured by value-added assessments. Could you please elaborate on your view that “value-added ... [is] not ready for prime time yet”? Is your point that only a few areas, such as Tennessee, have the data to do this now?

Adam Urbanski:
Availability of data is but one consideration. Preparing teachers, administrators, et al., to use and interpret the data correctly is another. Contextualizing the data as PART of the criteria is also unresolved. And let’s also not forget that teacher effectiveness cannot be measured entirely until many years afterwards. At this early stage of “value added” consideration, I think that we should proceed cautiously (and I believe that Bill Sanders would agree) before we make it high stakes. Having said all that, I have an open mind to the possibilities that value-added considerations can advance our drive to improve teaching and learning.

Kathryn Doherty, Education Week (Moderator):
Michael Flynn, Asst. Director, SuccessLink notes: Jeanette asked about a national TEACHER education curriculum. I think this would be difficult if not impossible with each state having their own standards and testing. Maybe some crucial elements that needs to be included in teacher ed programs might be more realistic?

Question from Anonymous, Elementary teacher, currently job seeking:
Why is it so difficult for new, highly qualified teachers to obtain teaching positions when it seems “the talk” is always that there aren’t enough good teachers out there?

Victoria VanCleef:
We recently published a research report that goes to this point called Missed Opportunities. In doing this research, we found that districts receive large numbers of highly qualified applicants, but they lose many of the best-qualified teachers because of slow hiring practices, delays in state budget timetables, teacher union seniority transfer policies and vacancy notification requirements. This web of policies often makes it dificult for large urban systems to hire early in the year. As a result, urban districts scramble to fill their vacancies with lesser qualified teachers at the end of summer. Even the best HR department would have a hard time staffing by May or early June if they did not address these underlying policy barriers.

Question from Joaquina Reyes, graduate student, University of Texas at El Paso:
Have there been any marked negative effects on teacher retention because of No Child Left Behind legislation?

Richard Ingersoll:
It is too soon to determine this yet. My guess is that it will depend on how different states implement NCLB, especially the provisions that increase accountability for teachers. If some states increase this accountability without accompanying increases in the resources provided, then I fear that teachers will be held acccountble for things they do not control and this may exacerbate the aleady high levels of teacher turnover.

Question from Thomas Mackey:
Many teachers believe that their teacher preparation program was inadequate, and because of this lack of training many leave the profession within the first five years. What can be done to make teacher prep. programs better? Or, to put it another way, what does a good teacher prep. program look like?

Victoria VanCleef:
The literature on teacher quality has only surfaced a few things that almost everyone agrees are related to teacher quality. These include some things that may not be best addressed in coursework (verbal ability, for instance) and others that could be better addressed by most teacher preparation programs, such as content knowledge and content specific pedagogy. So I would focus on making sure teacher prep programs were doing all they can to make sure their future teachers know their content and know how to teach it

Question from Debbie Hill, Research Associate, Principals’ Executive Program, UNC- CH:
How much control do principals have over teacher retention and what strategies can they employ to keep teachers?

Victoria VanCleef:
Teacher retention is highly attributable to school climate and school leadership. To the extent that principals can be better managers and help create better school cultures, they will go a long way to improving teacher retention

Kathryn Doherty, Education Week (Moderator):
Jay Kumar, Director, USA Employment LLC writes in to say school recruiting systems, and certification systems are not uniform. Each of the 1000 school districts in Texas have their own (almost identical) application form, and a teacher has to spend days and days filling out the forms, and mailing the enclosures. For Texas residents with international degrees, the process becomes even more cumbersome. State boards have all kinds of non-friendly rules and thousands of spouses of international workers simply cannot become teachers even if they are certified in their home country, and experienced and committed to the profession !

Question from Marla Muntner, Director of Content Development, CaseNEX:
In your opinion, what is the number one issue contributing to high turn-over of teachers in US schools? How might this issue be addressed?

Richard Ingersoll:
National data show that, by far, the number one complaint of teachers is a lack of respect from society for their work. In my view, it is this feeling on the part of teachers that is underlying the high turnover problems of the occupation.

Kathryn Doherty, Education Week (Moderator):
Sharon Wynne, Publisher, writes in to the chat to say: Iowa is petitioning for it’s own system of defining Highly Qualified Teachers. Kentucky is using a point system as an alternative. Wyoming is droping all testing. NY is one of the toughest places to get certification. Massachusetts has some unique weighting of questions. Florida has for the longest time been a runaway strong certification state. California Math test can last up to 15 hours! My point is that when you look at all the variations it is not worth it. Their should be one test that produces a highly qualified test with a smaller state specific component that is an endorsement. That would cut down the costs of testing and give greater use of our time as teacher candidates.

Question from Bob Brewster Consultant:
My research in Florida finds the Teachers Union responsible for holding the low end of the pay scale down and giving big increases to retireing teachers. Low pay and facing the hard to teach kids every day discourages teachers that see they must teach 20 years before receiving a good salary. This neither keeps teachers or encourages students to go into the profession.

Adam Urbanski:
Without seeing the research it is impossible to comment on Florida. I do, however, agree that higher starting salaries for teachers should be no less a priority than higher salaries for veteran teachers. And relegating the “most challenging” assignments to the least experienced and most vulnerable teachers is harmful to teaching and learning. We no longer do that here in Rochester.

Kathryn Doherty, Education Week (Moderator):
Avo Makdessian, Deputy Director, Office of San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales wanted to let readers know about San Jose’s efforts to recruit and retain teachers... This is not a question but a description of what cities can do to aid in recruitment and retention of teachers. Mayor Gonzales is committed to making San José the most teacher friendly city in the nation. Our goal is to recruit and retain well-trained and experienced teachers to improve student achievement throughout the City. Nationwide teacher shortages combined with the growth in our student population has made it necessary for cities to recruit, train and hire excellent teachers for our students. That’s why Mayor Gonzales started the Teacher Homebuyer Program that provides teachers with a $40,000 no-interest loan to help them purchase their first home. To qualify for the program teacher must be employed full-time at a public, K-12 school that is either located within the City of San José municipal boundaries or other public schools where the majority of students served are San José residents. Since its inception in 1999, San José’s Teacher Homebuyer Program has assisted 385 teachers to buy a new home. Additionally, San José's Future Teacher Loan Program provides San Jose residents a $3000 forgivable loan to complete an approved teacher preparation program and to teach in a public school in San José. Since the programs inception in 1999, this program has issued 204 loans future teachers. Between the two programs, that’s almost 600 separate loans the City has granted to current and future teachers of San José. With the assistance from San José’s Future Teacher Loan Program and our Teacher Homebuyer Program, financing an education and living in our community has become as inviting as possible. For more information visit

Question from Gail Choice, Coordinator, Sanford, Florida:
Are we deluding ourselves when we don’t pursue increased teacher salaries as a major incentive for increasing the number of qualified teachers in every classroom?

Victoria VanCleef:
Clearly better pay is important, particularly to incent teachers to go into some of the harder to staff schools and to stay there once they hit their stride. But our retention data, and other research in this area show, that while pay is important, it is not the only significant issue. The quality of school leadership and school climate are two large factors that play into retention. As i stated earlier, pay and career growth over time are critical, particularly for high achieving people. And this is a challenge over time that the education community is going to have to address.

Question from Debi Rubera, Teacher, Anthony Andrews School:
When interviewing, what questions do you ask or what indicators are you looking for to be sure the staff you are joinning is committed to student excellence; willing to go the extra mile to reach the kids?

Adam Urbanski:
Willing to go the extra mile to reach the kids is a very good example. Having high expectations for all kids is another. Also, willingness to learn about the students and their experiences, respecting students and their families, and doing right by kids even if it requires creative insubordination - or, as Deborah Meier put it, “complying differently.”

Question from Donna Just Gateway School Orlando Fl.:
What would you say is the role for administration in the retention of teachers?

Richard Ingersoll:
Teachers report that a major reason for their turnover is “lack of support from their school administration.” This appears to run the gamut from supplying enough chalk, to backing up teachers with discipline issues, to providing support for the newcomers. Note, that the data do not say doing these things is easy. And, my point is not to bash administrators. But the data do also indicate that school principals vary widely in how well they do support and manage their faculty. Some appear to do a far better job with these difficulties than others.

Kathryn Doherty, Education Week (Moderator):
Pamela Ehrenberg, Accreditation Associate, National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education writes in to say: Regarding “crucial elements that needs to be included in teacher ed programs,” folks might be interested in NCATE’s six unit standards, at

Question from Esther Coleman, Director, Palm Beach County Schools:
Typically, school districts spend MANY dollars sending their personnel from job fair to job fair and from university campus to university campus in order to recruit new teachers. With the capabilities of today’s technology, this method is outdated and cost ineffective. However, many of the job banks and clearinghouses are ineffective as well. What is the best way for school districts to connect with teaching candidates for specific vacancies AS THEY ARISE?

Adam Urbanski:

Question from MAJ Scott A Brown US Army, Heidelberg Germany:
How do school boards and superintendents in general look at alternatively certified teachers?

Victoria VanCleef:
I think that the No Child Left Behind legislation has created some confusion when it comes to alternatively certified teachers. Many of the pathways created by states meet the federal definition of a highly-qualified teacher, but the law has certainly made people nervous. I think that our program data suggests that principals are highly satisfied with the quality of our alternate route teachers and compare them favorably to traditionally certified teachers. In fact, over 90% of our principals across sites would hire one of our alternate route teachers again. We hope to work withthe USDOE and state departments of education to help clarify the definition of highly qualified teachers to keep these important pathways open.

Question from Lenay Dunn, Coordinator of Recruitment, Selection, and Placement, Teach Greater New Orleans, University of New Orleans:
Through a partnership with The New Teacher Project, we have recruited a diverse and high caliber cohort of mid-career professionals into alternate certification. Yet, many of them lack school-level support that would increase their effectiveness in the classroom. What support strategies have been found to have the highest correlation to strong retention rates?

Victoria VanCleef:
Dr. Ingersoll has suggested that mentoring would be a good strategy to pursue. Also, making sure that new teachers feel connected to the staff at the school seems to be somewhat correlated to retention rates.

Kathryn Doherty, Education Week (Moderator):
A number of our teachers in the audience have expressed frustration with the discussion on “highly qualified” teachers. Susan Hart, Special Education Teacher, for example, says -- Why does education lose quality teachers? I have 10 years experience, National Board Certification, a Specialist Degree, and working on my Doctorate. I am now told that I must pass praxis testing in all academic content areas to remain in a self contained classroom for students with severe emotional disabilities in order to be “highly qualified”. Give me a break. This may be the final straw for me!

Question from Omar Ezzeldine, Director, New Horizon:
What can you say about this problem as it pertains to private/independent schools. Do you see a difference in strategies for recruitment and retention as compared to public schools? Also, please distinguish between religious and secualr private/independent schools if you feel necessary.

Richard Ingersoll:
There are some differences in the rates and reasons for teacher turnover in public as opposed to private schools. For example, small private schools have especially high rates of turnover. Private schools offer lower salaries than do public schools and private teachers report this as a reason behind their turnover more so than do public teachers. But, what is most striking to me is how consistent are the reasons behind teacher turnover, regardless of the type of school. Besides salaries, lack of support from admininistrators and lack of say over school decisions usually rise to the top.

Question from Rul Kashif, Instructor, Art Institute of Washington:
Has the competition for teaching positions increased, in an overall weakened economy and job market?

Victoria VanCleef:
We don’t have data that would allow us to ascribe increases in intrest in our programs to changes in the larger labor market. It does make sense, though, that a weaker economy in high tech sectors, for instance, might lead to inceased competition for science and math teachers. But we have not been able to document that this is the case. Over 70% of our new teachers across our sites are “high-need” or “shortage area” applicants as defined by our partner districts.

Question from Dick Willobee, Mentor Coordinator Grand Rapids Public Schools, MI:
Research indicates that schools that have a mixture of experienced and beginning teachers is most effective. Union contracts often support seniority sytems based on years teaching as the way to place teachers across districts. This leaves buildings with meany veterans and buildings with many beginners. Have any schools been able to keep their seniority system in place while still dispersing young teachers throughout the district to create integrated staffs?

Adam Urbanski:
In Rochester, vacancies/transfers are filled by school-based committees that include teachers, parents, administrators and, in high schools, students. Seniority is no longer the consideration. Instead, the school community selects from all qualified candidates the ones who are the best match with the school’s needs and ethos.

Question from Debra Banks, Sr. Consultant, PEN:
Are any of you aware of any data that is a compilation of information across multiple cities – with regard to teacher assignment practices and the extent to which they result in disparities among more- and less-affluent schools, and more- or less-heavily minority schools, in terms of teacher certification, experience, and turnover?

Richard Ingersoll:
There are certainly national data, from the US Dept of Educ., that document the maldistribution of qualified teachers within and across districts. There is less infomration as to how this comes about, why some places have more inequities than others and what to do about it.

Question from Lou Hatfield, Director, ETS, Princeton:
What are the most creative, effective methodologies to recruit AND then retain teachers in the “high demand” areas such as math, science, special education, and ESL (where shortages exist)?Thanks!

Victoria VanCleef:
Research suggests that traditional routes into teaching are not producing high enough numbers of these subject areas to meet district demands. We think this is one of the most important promises of alternate route programs. Roughly 70% of our new alternate route teachers are characterized as high need shortage teachers by our partner districts. In our efforts to hire traditionally certified teachers, we are seeing that aggressive targeted recruitment strategies and a stremalined entry path can also play a critical role in increasing the number of high need applicants to districts. The challenge is that, as we saw in our research report, Missed Opportunities, given the high demand for these teachers, districts have to hire them early or they will be lost to neighboring suburban districts.

Kathryn Doherty, Education Week (Moderator):
Tricia Coulter, Policy Analyst, SHEEO notes: I am concerned about some semantic challenges that may be adding to confusion. “Highly Qualified” is a legislatively defined term, whereas “high quality” is a evaluative one. I think that, in light of the concerns over teacher accountability, it is important to be clear that these may not be the same thing. Also, the term alternative certification can no longer be used with any functionality. There are too many different types of teacher preparation routes, outside of programs offered in the “traditional” sense of a four-year degree through a college of education, to all be described as “alternative.”

Question from Lisa Sanford, Admin Intern, Hornell NY:
Can you suggest specific ways rural districts can take initiative to seek and keep diverse staff, especially when starting salaries and quality of life issues may not be as competitive? Thank you.

Victoria VanCleef:

Question from :
A recent article on teacher mobility from Hanushek, Kain and Rivkin concludes that “differences in teacher quality are more significant than the differences arising from having inexperienced teachers. Therefore, an approach with more appeal might be simply to accept the fact that there may be greater turnover in schools serving a larger disadvantaged population, but then to concentrate much more attention and resources on the quality dimension.” (“The Revolving Door” Education Next) I would love to hear comments on this idea.

Richard Ingersoll:
Certainly some teacher turnover is inevitable, good and necessary. Some ought not be teaching and you want some people to leave. But, it seems that the two issues -- teacher quality and teacher turnover -- are interconnected. The data tell us that the “best and brightest” are the most likely to leave. And, there are many costs and consequences to teacher turnover besides just losing qualified teachers. In other words, high turnover is not cost free.

Question from Jennifer Keys, College Student:
What questions should new teachers be asking administrators when interviewing to ensure the schools have a strong new teacher program in place? Are there current schools that have strong programs in place that can be used in comparing?

Victoria VanCleef:
That’s a great question. New teachers should ask what mentoring program is in place, how often they will meet with their mentor. Does the mentor have opporunities to observe or co-teach. New teachers should also ask if they will have a chance to observe masters in their classrooms. They should also aske about common preps with teachers on their team or grade level. Trying to gain a sense of the school’s discipline policy and how consistently it is used, could also help.

Kathryn Doherty, Education Week (Moderator):
Susan Gifford, Ed Consultant, NH Dept. of Education writes: Ingersoll suggests that mentoirng is a strategy to pursue to increase retention but how much more effective is this strategy compared to others aimed at retaining teachers. In addition, I am concerned that the focus on mentoring as a strategy for retaining teachers (which also needs to clarify whether it’s retaining teachers to a school/district or the profession) obscures another important and potential impact of mentoring, which is on the knowledge and skill of teachers.

Question from Jon W, Prospective HS Teacher, Michigan:
In researching a career change into teaching, I’m alarmed by so many new teachers leaving the field after only a few years. The common refrain is that new teachers are unprepared for classroom realities, overwhelmed, and suffering an institutionalized lack of support.

What can you say to a prospective teacher like me who wants to improve society by teaching, yet who must weigh the consistent evidence that new teachers are like mosquitos hitting a bug-zapper? What can I do to be one of the ones that stays in the job?

Richard Ingersoll:
Yes, there are “bad” schools that are often not great places to work. But, there are also many terrific places to work, run by able administrators. Look for these.

Question from Ann Barysh, former teacher and Vice Principal Massachusetts:
Here in the Boston area we have a number of teacher training programs. Might the panel comment on those programs that have adopted the “medical model” of teacher training. Such a modelpairs an “emerging teachers” with a veteran teacher the veteran teacher’s intern.

These interns spend the entire year with their mentor while taking classes in the summer before their internship begins and throughout the school year. The classroom teacher is in regular contact with the training institution regarding the intern’s progress and the courses the intern takes.

As someone who has worked with programs such as these and as someone who has hired graduates of such programs, I strongly support any program that seeks to provide teachers-in-training with a full year of classroom experience couple with academic rigor and reflection.

Does this panel have any experience with these programs? And if you do, are they as successful as my limited experience suggests they are in producing well-trained and well-prepared teachers for those first critical years?

Victoria VanCleef:
I haven’t seen any data yet about the effectiveness of these programs, and it may be that they are just too small and new at this point. While we think that these models can be a great experience for the new teacher, my fear is that they are extremely costly and may not be able to produce the number of teachers that are needed. One of the benefits of alternate route programs is that they too embrace job-embedded learning.

Kathryn Doherty, Education Week (Moderator):
Kathleen Carpenter, Editor, Teachers.Net Gazette asks: More and more current teachers are lamenting that they feel their skills and good judgement about how to carry out effective instruction are being ignored and that the current trends call more for “technicians” than highly trained professionals. Those who are unhappy cite the fact that many of them no longer are allowed to make decisions regarding instruction--instead they are being handed precise schedules and scripts. Will this trend result in a different kind of new teacher, one who is better suited to robotically following instructions than to diagnosing and crafting creative lessons?

Question from Anonymous, University of South Florida:
Please address initiatives that are being targeted at helping special education teachers to meet content area certification.

Adam Urbanski:
Some states, including NY, are in the process of breaking down the K-12 Special Ed certification into more exact categories (Birth-Grade 2, Grades 1-6, 5-9, and 7-12). This will be effective in NYS as of February 2, 2004. All NYS teachers certified after that date will be required to complete 175 hours of professional development to maintain their certification.

Question from Xochitl Perez Castillo, Ph.D. Special Education Teacher in Boston, MA:
While a lot of the research does point to the need for greater efforts in recruiting credentialled and well educated teachers with high skills in content areas, it is often disappointing to me to find that many efforts stop after the first 5 years of teaching. In fact, we often don’t hear about successes in “preparation or professional development” until the end of the teaching career when many use the lack of “up-to-date skills” are required. I’ve often wondered if there is what I term a “shelf-life” for teaching. You want us to stay for more than five years but after about 15 years, or if we’re lucky to be of the baby-boomer generation in teaching, after 20 years, then we’re pretty much blamed for not being skilled enough. Does the research and rhetoric really point to a “shelf-life” in the classroom?

Richard Ingersoll:
Some research does seem to point to a diminishing returns phenomenon. In the beginning, each additional year of experience seems to improve the teacher’s skill. But, after a while the positive effect of having more experience tapers off.

Kathryn Doherty, Education Week (Moderator):
I want to thank each of our guests for participating in this afternoon’s discussion. A transcript will be available shortly at Thank you, also, to our audience this afternoon. Our guests answered as many as they could of the more than 200 questions and comments submitted. Thanks again to all!

Kathryn Doherty, Education Week (Moderator):
As we are finishing up, I’d also like to note that Education Week’s annual Quality Counts report for 2003, which is entitled “If I Can’t Learn From You: Ensuring a Highly Qualified Teacher for Every Classroom” (and available at under special reports) focused on the issue of finding and keeping good teachers in the classroom. We received many questions about what various states and districts are doing re: mentoring, alternative certification, recruitment and retention incentives, and ensuring a “qualified” teaching force. I’d encourage readers to check out this report to get a state-by-state breakdown of this kind of information. The report also includes an analysis by Richard Ingersoll of data on teacher qualifications state-by-state.

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