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Chat Wrap-Up: Teacher Recruitment

February 28, 2006 4 min read
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On Feb. 15, 2006, the topic of teacher recruitment drew a range of questions from readers for two panelists with extensive on-the-ground experience: Carolina Pavia, the administrator of certificated employment for the Los Angeles Unified School District, and Darlene Larson, the associate superintendent for human resources in Township High School District 214, in suburban Chicago. The following are edited excerpts from the discussion:

Question: What challenges do you see for the future in teacher recruitment?

A full transcript of this chat is online at www.edweek.org/chat/recruit.

Larson: I see a number. First, as the baby boom generation continues to retire, districts will face substantial work in continuing to fill positions with high-quality candidates in large numbers. Second, districts with budget reductions will have to work to remain competitive in attracting candidates at a time when working conditions, salary and benefits, and job security remain in the forefront for job candidates. Third, recruiting minority teachers must be a goal of every district. Fourth, districts will have to be mindful of changes in licensure requirements brought about by the No Child Left Behind law, to be certain that candidates are in compliance. And finally, there will always be specific positions that are difficult to fill, such as those in the sciences.

Question: Have researchers explored what decisionmaking processes teachers go through when selecting one school over another, or even one district over another?

Pavia: A study done in Baltimore indicated that new-teacher support was a critical factor for retention. In Los Angeles, we have found that new teachers will often select a school or a given district based, in large part, on what support and opportunities for professional growth and development are available. This includes the support that the candidate feels will be provided by the school principal. A survey conducted by the district’s human-resources department last year also revealed that midcareer-changers were interested in the health-benefits package provided.

Question: How can a principal find out about the potential teacher’s attitude and ability in teaching?

Larson: The principal can design hypothetical questions that require problem-solving ability to answer. A rubric can be developed, with the best types of answers highlighted, to evaluate responses. Candidates also should be asked to do a self-assessment on such characteristics as flexibility, adaptability, response to constructive criticism, teamwork, and collaboration. And, of course, these traits should also be considered as the principal formulates questions for references, including the current employer.

Question: What are your thoughts on people becoming teachers as a second career?

Pavia: We have found that midcareer-change individuals have much to offer the teaching profession. They understand the essential components of the workplace and also know what skills their students will need to be successful after both high school and college. Principals are eager to hire such people because of what they bring to their new career. The key to their success in the classroom is the preparation and support they receive, coupled with the content knowledge they bring with them.

Question: How do you get teachers of color to want to teach in all-white suburban communities?

Larson: I suggest a thorough study, followed by an action plan with aggressive recruitment techniques. This requires the commitment of top district and school leadership. If you have teachers of color in your district, I suggest immediately opening a dialogue with them, seeking their assistance in your recruitment efforts, and extending invitations for them to become recruiters at job fairs. A “grow your own” program should also be explored, perhaps offering scholarships and stipends for students wishing to become teachers in their districts. Bottom line: Getting teachers of color to teach in an all-white community requires a lot of hard work and “walking the talk,” so that it is clear your district is genuinely committed to diversity.

Question: What are the current “best practices” for recruiting minority candidates?

Pavia: Recruitment strategies that best reach out to diverse candidates include: (1) attendance at state and national conferences (Minority Expo in New York, National Alliance of Black School Educators, National Association for Bilingual Education, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, Asian Pacific Conference, and others), (2) outreach to diverse student organizations on university campuses, (3) on-campus recruitment at historically black colleges and universities, (4) recruiting within the district’s diverse communities, and (5) advertising in publications and on Web sites that target diverse populations.

Question: What certification areas will be in highest demand in five years?

Pavia: Projections indicate that the demand for math, science, and special education teachers will continue to grow. Speech pathologists will also be in high demand.

Question: What are the best indicators that an applicant is likely to go on to become a successful teacher?

Larson: Unfortunately, there is no magical method or surefire formula to predict success. I like to examine applicants’ cover letters and vitae carefully, to determine how well they write and prepare their work. Next, I review the job description for a given position and align interview questions with it, including ones related to interpersonal skills and attitude. Hearing a candidate talk about students is very important. And if you have an opportunity to actually watch a candidate teach, this adds another dimension to the decisionmaking.

A version of this article appeared in the March 01, 2006 edition of Education Week as Education Week sponsors regular online chats on its Web site, edweek.org. On Feb. 15, 2006, the topi

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