Recruitment & Retention

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

May 01, 2004 2 min read

The $20,000 signing bonus promised to new teachers in Massachusetts is disappearing ... fast.
—Photograph by William Whitehurst/CORBIS

What: Appalled by high failure rates on Massachusetts’ new teacher licensing test in 1998—only 41 percent of candidates passed its basic skills section—state legislators decided they had to buy some smarter educators. To lure the best and the brightest, they announced that the state would offer $20,000 signing bonuses, paid in four annual installments, to top college students and dynamic mid-career professionals. “We want this to be elitist, and unapologetically so,” then-state Senate President Thomas Birmingham told the Boston Globe in 1998. Over the past five years, the program has attracted thousands of applicants, many from outside Massachusetts, and the state has bestowed the bonuses on about 350 highly qualified candidates who’ve entered the classroom following a seven-week certification course.

The Problem: Massachusetts has run out of money. To help shrink this past summer’s $3 billion shortfall, state lawmakers raided the $70 million endowment whose earnings paid for the bonuses and other teacher-quality initiatives. Education officials distributed a final round of payments last summer, meaning that only the first two of the five annual classes of educators recruited through the program received the entire bonus promised to them.

Result: While the several hundred teachers who’ve been stiffed $4,000 to $12,000 are dismayed by the turn of events, others charge that the bonuses failed to deliver from day one. Catherine Boudreau, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, an NEA affiliate, argues that the program’s key assumption—that any intelligent person can teach with little or no training—led to placing unqualified people in classrooms, using money that “would have been much better spent going directly to the schools.” Researchers with the Project on the Next Generation of Teachers, a Harvard University-based group that studies recruitment and retention, found that the program’s fast-track certification, not the promise of extra money, was what attracted candidates. And in the absence of supportive school environments and additional training, the bonuses did not compel novices to stay—about half of the 1999 bonus recipients stopped teaching in less than four years. “Incentives only work if people have the capacity to do what you incentivize them to do,” notes Harvard researcher Edward Liu.

—Samantha Stainburn

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Professional Development Webinar
Building Leadership Excellence Through Instructional Coaching
Join this webinar for a discussion on instructional coaching and ways you can link your implement or build on your program.
Content provided by Whetstone Education/SchoolMint
Teaching Webinar Tips for Better Hybrid Learning: Ask the Experts What Works
Register and ask your questions about hybrid learning to our expert panel.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Families & the Community Webinar
Family Engagement for Student Success With Dr. Karen Mapp
Register for this free webinar to learn how to empower and engage families for student success featuring Karen L. Mapp.
Content provided by Panorama Education & PowerMyLearning

EdWeek Top School Jobs

2021-2022 Teacher (Districtwide)
Dallas, TX, US
Dallas Independent School District
[2021-2022] Founding Middle School Academic Dean
New York, NY, US
DREAM Charter School
DevOps Engineer
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association
User Experience Analyst
Portland, OR, US
Northwest Evaluation Association

Read Next

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Recruitment & Retention Whitepaper
Teacher Recruitment, Retention & PD in the COVID Era: What the Research Tells Us.
Get your copy of this year’s PowerSchool TalentIndex to find out how schools and districts are recruiting, hiring, and managing staff to ...
Content provided by PowerSchool
Recruitment & Retention The Scramble to Find Substitute Teachers
Some districts are paying bonuses, some are lowering qualifications, and one is assigning central office staff to substitute at least one day per week.
5 min read
tsj substitute 13
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Recruitment & Retention Quiz Quiz Yourself: How Much Do You Know About Teacher Shortages?
Quiz yourself: How are districts responding to existing and expected teacher shortages, and what factors influence teacher shortages?
Hayley Hardison
1 min read
Recruitment & Retention Teacher Morale and Student Enrollment Declining Under COVID-19, Survey Shows
A new EdWeek Research Center survey examines what educators are thinking on a host of issues as they begin the 2020-21 academic year.
9 min read