Monday, March 16, 2015

Best way to attract teachers to poor, rural schools may be to stress opportunity to make a difference

The best way to recruit teachers to poor, rural remote areas is not through incentives, but to emulate the military and promote the benefits of being able to make an impact on people's lives, said Robert Maranto, the 21st century chairman in leadership at the University of Arkansas Department of Education Reform, Madeleine Cummings reports for Slate. (Cummings photo: Math teacher Ed Wiest works with a student in Pryor, Mont., on an Indian reservation)

University researchers analyzed 50 rural school district websites, finding that only one of them "advertised non-materialistic incentives, such as freedom in the classroom or the opportunity to forge close relationships with students," Cummings writes. That school, KIPP Delta, a charter school network in rural Arkansas with close ties to Teach for America, "included a long paragraph on its careers page about the benefits of teaching in their schools, which serve primarily students from low-income families, saying teachers would 'directly impact the lives of hundreds of children' and "if you are looking for a place where you can grow as a professional and truly make a difference, KIPP Delta may be a perfect fit!'”

"This one paragraph, the Arkansas researchers noted, included more promotional language than the other 53 school district websites combined," Cummings writes.

The challenge "is how to find a way to sell the benefits without sugarcoating the enormous challenges of the job or neglecting to build a sustainable teaching corps committed to staying in one place for the long haul," Cummings writes. "These are oversights sometimes cited by skeptics of the recruiting-savvy Teach for America, which focuses on bringing top college graduates to struggling communities for at least two years. After those two years, slightly over half leave their initial placements, according to one study (although a majority stay in teaching for longer than two years)."

Wary that Teach for America teachers with no ties to the community won't stay long, other districts are trying to attract locals to teach, Cummings writes. "Teachers from the same background and place usually have stronger ties to the community and children, and are often less likely to pack their bags when the job proves challenging. But even with local candidates, messaging can go a long way. Invariably, teachers say a financial incentive, like subsidized tuition or loan forgiveness, might pique their interest. But they ultimately came to teaching—and stayed—for the kids." (Read more)

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