EDUCATION WEEK on the WEB recently hosted a live online chat on new strategies in teacher recruitment, focusing on schools’ efforts to meet the No Child Left Behind Act’s mandate that all teachers in core academic subjects be “highly qualified” by the 2005-2006 school year. Expert guests for the discussion were Chuck White, president of the American Associate of School Administrators, and Elizabeth Arons, chief executive for human resources for New York City Schools.
Drawing nearly 200 questions from a diverse audience, the chat provided a wealth of job-market information for both teachers and administrators. Some highlights from the discussion follow. (Questions have been edited for length.)
Question: In looking to attract talented candidates, how can schools compete with the higher-paying corporate world?
Elizabeth Arons: We have found that while financial aspects of a career are important, they are not the most important motivator. Most teachers want to make a difference in the lives of children. If they truly feel valued--that they are making a difference in a real learning environment with the right support--then job satisfaction is very high.
Q: Other than subject knowledge, what components of teaching do school administrators look for in a qualified teacher applicant?
Arons: Highly qualified applicants in my book need to be extremely committed to student learning--they have an attitude towards students that “I am here for you and I will not give up, even if you seem to be giving up on yourself.” They need to be extremely collaborative with their colleagues, supportive of the mission of the school [and] school system, [and] willing to go the extra mile to make sure students learn.
Q: What do administrators view as more important when hiring, a teacher’s certification and degrees or his or her references on teaching experiences?
Chuck White: It’s my sense that principals will initially look at your certificates and degrees as a preliminary screening process. However, their primary focus will be on your teaching experience and how well your references support the characteristics they are looking for in the position they are hoping to fill.
Q: How important are alternative certifications to New York City’s efforts to obtain qualified teachers?
Arons: The alternative certification programs have been critical to meeting our needs. Since the universities and colleges have not produced sufficient numbers of certified teachers in shortage fields, we have relied almost exclusively on our Teachers Fellows [alternative-route] program. [This program] produced 2,500 of our teachers last year (of the 9,000 teachers hired), and we are expecting another 2,000 this year.
Q: Since definitions of highly qualified under the No Child Left Behind Act are state- specific, what will the impact be on teachers who move from state to state?
White: My sense is it will take more planning on the part of any educator moving from one state to another since they may be highly qualified in one state [but] not another. It could definitely slow down the process.
Q: Is it appropriate during an interview for a teaching candidate to ask about what type of support system the school has in place for new teachers?
White: [In an interview,] it is important that you take the frame of mind that you are also determining if this is the best fit for you. Normally, toward the end of the interview there will be opportunities to ask questions, and the questions you’ve posed would be good ones.
Q: Are schools interested in qualified teachers who left the classroom and who are now trying to re-enter the profession?
White: Definitely. Make sure you clearly describe your qualifications on the application and resume and point to the fact that your are highly qualified in your core subject of preparation.
Q: I will be graduating in December of 2004 with my BA in Middle School education. What is my best approach for applying and entering the teaching workforce at mid-year?
Arons: You will be very marketable--there are lots of openings mid-year in urban school districts!
Q: How can we possibly talk about recruiting quality teachers when so many teachers leave the profession due to poor compensation and high stress?
White: In many districts it is a catch-22 situation. There are also many districts faced with laying off staff because of funding cuts and at the same time needing to hire teachers in shortage areas. It can be a real mess.