Teacher Recruitment Strategies That Work

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With states across the nation reporting teacher shortages in critical areas, recruiting season becomes more critical than ever for districts and schools that know they’ll need to hire teachers. While there’s no single strategy that will ensure an effective yield of newly hired teachers, we’ve combed the country for some of the most innovative, practical, and rewarding recruitment tools. Here’s a look at some of them.

Help with affordable housing

As teachers get priced out of housing, particularly in affluent areas, some cities and counties are taking action. In 2019, California’s Santa Clara County--the heart of Silicon Valley and home to some of the priciest real estate in the country--approved a plan to develop affordable teacher housing in the area, where housing for middle-income earners is sparse. They’ve since found a developer and received a $25 million pledge from Facebook toward paying for the new homes.

This year, the Hawaii State Department of Education--which governs all public schools in the state--partnered with Homes for Heroes, an initiative that provides teachers and their families the opportunity to rent military housing typically available only to active-duty service members. For a reduced rate, teachers can rent a two-bedroom apartment at the Schofield Barracks, a military base, which includes the price of utilities, an on-site gym membership, free parking and access to other on-base amenities.

“The cost of living here is high. When we look at our teachers’ salaries, they’re somewhere in the middle. But you add cost of living, and they drop down to the bottom,” said Cynthia Covell, assistant superintendent for the Hawaii department. “A lot of teachers are coming right out of college. If we have a place where they can land, it helps with recruiting.”

Money talks

It’s no secret that teachers will gravitate to districts or even states that offer a decent pay scale. Low and stagnant pay across Oklahoma led to teacher attrition and walkouts in 2018, followed by statewide legislation that infused $623 million into Oklahoma’s education budget. That allowed schools to increase annual salaries for full-time equivalent classroom teachers by an average of $7,400. Subsequently, the number of teachers grew by more than 1,700 people.

“The pay increases brought Oklahoma to among the top states in the region,” observed Steffie Corcoran, spokesperson for the Oklahoma State Department of Education. That’s good news for Oklahoma where, just a few years ago, teacher salaries were among the lowest in the nation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Invest in recruitment “best practices”

Higher pay undoubtedly attracts job hunters. But some recruitment strategies that invest in human capital can produce lasting, positive results—at little to no cost to recruiters. Examples include extending the reach of recruitment beyond the immediate school district; having principals interview candidates, a practice less than two-thirds of school districts employ; and requesting candidates to conduct a classroom lesson.

Too often, school districts fail to use these types of recruitment “best practices” that involve broader outreach, according to a report by the Center for American Progress. A lack of resources may stymie school districts’ ability to embrace these effective strategies explains Lisette Partelow, senior director of K-12 Strategic Initiatives at the Center and co-author of the report.

But not every effective recruiting tool requires added resources, she notes. “Having teacher candidates teach a lesson so you can observe their teaching skills directly doesn’t cost more than doing an interview,” Partelow said.

Consider candidates from specialized residency programs

Increasingly, states are turning to innovative preparation programs that focus on intensive on-the-job training with the support of mentors. The research on these programs shows that they produce candidates who stay in teaching longer, are more diverse, and are highly sought after by principals, according to Tara Kini, director of state policy for the Learning Policy Institute.

These programs tend to mirror the medical residency model. That’s true for those developed by The National Center for Teacher Residencies. Launched in 2007, NCTR supports year-long, apprentice-style programs in which prospective teachers practice and hone their skills alongside effective teacher-mentors in high-need classrooms for one year. Participants receive a stipend, learn from veteran teachers, and commit to teaching in their districts for three or more years beyond the residency.

Inspire from within

As Oklahoma’s teacher shortage and attrition rates neared crisis levels, the Oklahoma State Department of Education began to get creative in its recruitment strategies by utilizing its own resources to tell positive stories about teaching and learning in the state. They developed ShapEd My Life: videos of notable Oklahomans discussing the impact teachers have had on their lives. Similarly, the department created EdTalks, a video series that featured some of Oklahoma’s standout teachers talking passionately about their love of teaching. The video series has been shared via social media and used by Oklahoma’s colleges of education.

In one such video, veteran educator Christina Kirk tells her story as a proud Oklahoma teacher. She shares how she had a teacher who believed in her and how, after a decade-plus practicing law, she decided to follow in that teacher’s footsteps. She said: “I asked myself: What can I do? I want to do what I’ve seen done, and what I know what makes an impact on kids’ lives. … I want to teach…. with a purpose, and with a passion…Every single day, I give my kids not only academics, but a little piece of me.”

It’s hard to walk away from that video uninspired.

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