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The Wild World of Teacher Recruiting


Teacher Poaching: Districts, states compete for teachers in a wild game of Lets Make a Deal! Included: Incentives to keep teachers.



Alls fair in love, war, and -- hiring teachers?

The situation may not yet be that extreme. But districts with numerous staff openings and the resources to recruit aggressively and pay generously often are reaching across state and district lines to find the teachers they need.

And there is little other districts and states can do about it.

"There is just no way to defend against it [out-of-state teacher recruiting] when you have no incentives to offer -- just instability and uncertainty," said Gene Evans, a spokesman for the Oregon Department of Education. State budget deficits have led to teacher layoffs and hiring freezes. "Right now, were a good place for other states to prospect."


Oregon, like many states, is seeking to balance its budget; state officials are forecasting a $1.5 billion deficit next year, according to Evans. The bulk of education funding in Oregon (about 80 percent) comes from state money, not local property taxes, so the deficit has meant cuts in education funding. About 3,000 teachers may be laid off during this school year if the legislature does not find a way to increase revenues.

News like that gives recent graduates few reasons to stay. We are very concerned about teachers leaving the state, Evans told Education World. But we just have no jobs for them. At job fairs in the spring, most of the recruiters were from out of state. Many [new graduates] are going to California, Washington, and Arizona.

Virginia, too, especially in its rural districts, is seeing some teachers leave the state for higher salaries. While recruiting and hiring teachers primarily is done at the local level, in the past the state has provided some salary incentives. From time to time, the state has been able to appropriate funds to increase pay for teachers, according to Charles Pyle, the public information manager for the Virginia Department of Education. But the state is experiencing some financial difficulties, as are some other states. As a result, Many school districts are sending people to other states.


Other districts, like Brockton, Massachusetts, located 20 miles south of Boston, do not have to look to other states to see where their teachers are going. The dont need to look any farther than the next town.

We see a growing trend of teachers moving from district to district, according to Kathleen Sirois, senior director of human resources for the Brockton Public Schools. District officials have started tracking the departures, searching for patterns. Its hard to determine why, but the number one reason seems to be to be closer to home, and the number two reason, higher pay.

Some teachers stay a year or two in Brockton, an urban district, and then leave for jobs in the suburbs. Others head to Boston, which has the highest teachers salaries in the state.

Brockton has about 1,400 teachers, and between 50 and 60 teachers resign each year, Sirois told Education World. About half of the teachers who resign accept jobs in nearby districts, often leaving Brockton officials scrambling to find replacements.

Many job offers [from other districts] dont come in until the day school opens or a few days before, which is a problem for us, Sirois added. This year, we lost five teachers the first day of school or a few days before. I wish districts would come up with a pact, and agree not to hire teachers after August 15, for example.


Less-favorable conditions in some states, though, have benefited states such as California, which has centralized teacher recruiting within and beyond its borders.

While theCalifornia Center for Teaching Careers (CalTeach), a state agency overseen by the state university system, does not do any hiring, it does plenty of recruiting and referring.

Six years ago, the state legislature provided funds to run CalTeach to combat a growing teachers shortage. The program now recruits teachers in 24 states, takes applications, and refers people to districts where there are vacancies. CalTeach staff members attend job fairs and staff recruit centers in other states.

Clearly, weve been examining recruitment and retention rates over the past several years, said Nancy Brownell, CalTeachs director. We look at states with similar licensing programs, and we look at universities with more graduates than are being hired.

Education officials estimate California will need to hire 24,000 teachers a year for the next ten years, Brownell told Education World. In-state colleges produce between 18,000 and 19,000 new teachers a year, and not all remain in California.

Students from out of state attending college in California are more mobile, added Brownell. They only are there because they are attending school there. Its important to introduce them to the possibilities of teaching in California.

The state also has a two-year induction program for new teachers. We have to look at recruitment and retention at the same time.


Brownell said there has been some criticism that California is poaching teachers from other states. Critics, though, need to look at what their own states have to offer.

Recruiting has to do with issues around working conditions and salaries, which are critical to every state, she said. We have a whole array of incentives for people who want to teach here. If what we do prompts other state legislatures to look at [teacher] salaries and incentives, those are important issues to discuss. If we prompt discussion, thats a good thing.


Some districts and states already are taking steps to keep teachers from moving on. For the past three years, the New Hampshire Department of Education has been tracking the number of people who receive certification in the state and the number who completed teacher preparation programs out of state. At least 50 percent of those who are certified in New Hampshire remain there to teach, according to Judith Fillion, divisional director for program support for the New Hampshire Department of Education.

The number of people getting certification in New Hampshire has decreased slightly over the past three years, though. We are trying to keep more detailed records for all the right reasons, Fillion told Education World. We are looking at our candidate pool to see how we can keep our own teachers in New Hampshire and what we can do to bring people to New Hampshire.

In Virginia, the state will forgive up to $3,720 in student loans if a new graduate agrees to teach four semesters in a critical need area in a Virginia school. The state also started a fast-track certification system five years ago, to help those interested in switching careers enter the profession faster.

The Brockton (Massachusetts) district also has introduced retention incentives. Over the past three years, weve been doing what we can, Sirois said. I dont think other districts are purposely raiding our staff. Its through the natural job-hunting process, reading advertisements.

School board members plan to discuss salary levels at the bargaining table, Sirois said. The district also has started a formal mentoring program for new teachers.

A leadership academy program allows teachers to take courses required for certification as administrators within the school district. Teachers also can participate in administrative internships, shadowing administrators to get a feel for their work.

We are creating programs we hope will retain teachers, said Sirois. Were trying to build career ladders.