Urban Opportunities

By Anthony Rebora — May 19, 2005 2 min read

In response to the No Child Left Behind Act’s mandate that all teachers in core subjects be highly qualified by the end of the 2005-06 school year, many urban school districts have become increasingly focused on teacher hiring. Recent interviews with Nancy Slavin, manager of teacher recruitment with Chicago Public Schools, and Donald Hafeman, assistant director of teacher recruitment with the Los Angeles Unified School District, shed some light on what sorts of candidates urban districts are looking for and what tactics they’re using to find them.

Urban enthusiasts. Both Slavin and Hafeman said their districts are now targeting teaching candidates who are firmly committed to teaching in high-needs schools, as opposed to just anyone who’s looking for a teaching job. That generally means they recruit heavily from education schools that have provided them solid candidates in the past or that have programs geared toward inner-city teaching.

Shortage subjects. Both districts rely heavily on local alternative-certification programs to find individuals with proficiency in high-demand subjects like math, science, and English as a second language. Slavin said Chicago also makes special recruiting visits to education schools around the country that are producing candidates in these fields.

Earlier hiring. Chicago and Los Angeles have both taken steps to streamline application processes and to avoid late hiring—a problem that has frustrated many urban-school teacher applicants in the past. Los Angeles now offers early contracts to as many as 1,000 top prospects.

Credentials. With the No Child Left Behind Act requiring that teachers be fully certified, Chicago and Los Angeles are trying to steadily clear their ranks of educators who don’t hold the right credentials. Los Angeles uses outputs from its electronic application system to quickly identify candidates who have certification. “We’re not bringing in everyone and their brother anymore,” Hafeman stresses. (Note that alternative certification or, in California, “intern” standing is generally considered acceptable under the No Child Left Behind law.)

Professional development. Both districts offer enhanced professional development options to new teachers working in hard-to-staff schools. There’s even some evidence suggesting that, in Los Angeles, the added professional development has had the effect of tilting salary scales in favor of teachers working in low-income schools.

Urban districts are notoriously challenging places to work. The examples of Chicago and Los Angeles suggest that such districts are now doing more to actively pursue educators who are prepared—or at least strongly willing—to meet that challenge.