Every state wants more high-quality teachers. To that end, the Council of Chief State School Officers, a nonpartisan group of education chiefs across the country, has released a guidebook for state policymakers to build stronger pipelines into the profession.
The group identified six key strategies states should consider to recruit, prepare, and support teachers:
- Elevate the teaching profession. This will come as no surprise to any educator: The general public often has a negative perception of teaching as a career. A recent analysis found that high-achieving students around the world don’t want to be teachers, and it’s not because of the low salaries. Students know that society doesn’t value teachers—and many teachers discourage their own students from following in their footsteps. CCSSO urges state education chiefs to change the narrative by sharing positive examples of teaching.
- Make teaching a financially appealing career. Teachers probably don’t go into teaching for the money. But when study after study comes out that shows that many teachers can’t afford to rent a one-bedroom apartment during their early years in the classroom, can’t afford to buy a house in many areas across the country, and that the pay gap between U.S. teachers’ pay and that of comparable workers is greater than ever before, it’s a little disheartening. CCSSO points to states that have offered financial incentives, from raising beginning salaries to creating scholarship programs to offering incentives for retired teachers to come back to the classroom.
- Expand pathways to enter teaching. States need to widen the pool of teacher candidates, CCSSO says. There are programs that range from targeting high school students to military veterans. Another strategy that CCSSO points to is making it easier for teachers to move from state to state and transfer their license, which a new analysis has found that more states are working toward.
- Bring more diversity to the teaching workforce. Eighty percent of U.S. teachers are white, and 77 percent are women. How can states attract male teachers and those of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds? CCSSO points to grow-your-own programs to prepare community members or those already working in the school, like paraprofessionals, to become teachers. And some states and universities have created residencies that better support prospective teachers—those have been shown to increase diversity and lead to better retention rates.
- Set reasonable expectations for retaining teachers. Millennials are more likely to quit their jobs to do something else, and want opportunities to learn and advance on the job, CCSSO says. Considering that 12 percent of all public school teachers are in their first or second year—and much of this group is likely in the Millennial generation—states should both consider how long they can reasonably expect teachers to stay in the classroom and rethink policies that align with this generation’s career expectations, CCSSO advises.
- Use data to target strategies where shortages exist. Teacher shortages are mostly specific to particular regions, subject areas, or grade levels. States should use data to determine where the need is most critical, CCSSO says. Education Week has reported that better use of data helps district streamline their hiring processes and hire candidates earlier.
CCSSO also compiled a map that shows which of these six strategies every state has taken. For example, Georgia is working to elevate the teaching profession by creating “Georgia Future Educators Signing Day,” akin to signing days for high school athletes, to recognize aspiring educators. Oregon is trying to bring more diversity to the teaching workforce through a bilingual grow-your-own teacher education program at Western Oregon University.
Indiana is working to make teaching more financially appealing through a grant that awards scholarships or stipends to state teachers who are pursuing national board certification. Colorado is working to expand the routes into teaching through its support of “Pathways2Teaching,” a concurrent enrollment program for students in Denver that gives high school students college credit for learning about educational issues.
Maine is working to improve teacher retention through support of the Teach to Lead initiative, which allows teachers to take on leadership opportunities. And Kansas is using data to target specific pipeline challenges through the creation of a statewide blue ribbon task force, which will address vacancies across the state through recommendations and data monitoring.
For more state actions and resources, see CCSSO’s full report.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.