Why Investing in the Experience Our Educators Have Will Produce the Greatest Student Achievement
The interest in teacher recruiting and retention continues to grow across the country and has become a higher priority for all school districts. According to the Learning Policy Institute’s 2016 report, “A Coming Crisis in Teaching? Teacher Supply, Demand, and Shortages in the U.S.”, they estimate that the annual shortage of teachers would reach about 110,000 by the 2017-2018 school year and increasing each year. In a recent report by The New Teacher Center, they suggest that turnover in Title 1 schools can be 50% higher than in non-Title 1 schools and that these teachers in higher poverty schools are likely to leave the classroom and the professional altogether. The New Teacher Center continues to report that the cost of replacing a teacher is approaching $20,000, and school districts that recognize this are investing heavily to support new teachers, by implementing programs like additional mentoring or tuition reimbursement. The cost to replace a teacher is high, and the cost to our future is even greater as the constant churn in teachers inhibits learning. The relationships teachers build with students is lost. The culture of collaboration is destabilized. Finally, the early training and professional learning that the teachers are developing to improve their craft leaves the organization and has to be restarted with the new teachers.
School districts in the U.S. also have a substantial impact on their local economy. Whether they are a small rural district or a large urban district, school districts make up a significant portion of the local workforce. Miami-Dade County Public Schools, for instance, employs over 33,500 employees. American Airlines is the 4th largest employer in the area with 11,300 employees, and Carnival Cruise Lines is the 7th largest with 3,500 employees. School districts play a critical role in stabilizing local economies, are responsible for the professional development of large workforces, and have the honorable mission of educating our children.
Yet school districts across the country are feeling the shortage of educators. Fewer teachers are going through traditional schools of education programs and many are leaving the profession for other careers. One reason is that many industries also feel a shortage in their respective industries and are putting in sophisticated strategies to recruit from other industries. As this U.S. News report states, “Despite years of initiatives to recruit skilled foreign workers or increase interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) among students in the United States, a new study shows Americans feel the need for additional STEM workers is critical.” The report further states that the manufacturing sector alone needs about 3.5 million jobs by 2025. CNN also reports that the healthcare industry “will need to hire 2.3 million new health care workers by 2025.” It seems that these other industries are working hard to recruit more people into their sectors. Relatively speaking, an estimated teacher shortage of 110,000 teachers seems small in comparison, and it further reinforces our belief that other industries have even greater demands than education and will try hard to attract our workforce of five million educators.
Right now, districts are competing with their neighboring schools, school districts, and other states to attract teachers from an already limited pool. Some school districts are getting sophisticated with search engine optimization to target teachers from other industries who may be thinking about moving. These types of tactics will not make our nation’s educator workforce stronger in the long run. We have to start now to develop strategies which will direct more college students into education and encourage people to change careers into this field. While policy-makers make political gestures and campaign on salary increases for teachers, often the salary increases are not substantial enough to make enough of a difference in lifestyle for a teacher or to prevent them from leaving the profession. Mercer published a 2019 Top Global Workforce Trends annual report, including 7,300 executives, which looks at what creates a compelling employee value proposition. The categories include: reward for performance, compensation, benefits, career development, support for wellness, sense of belonging, and meaningful work (see figure below).
Based on their research of 7,300 respondents across 16 geographies and 9 industry sectors, today’s employees “are seeking more purpose, inspiration, and connectivity.” They see success as a team effort and believe their role is “relationship focused” and their environment is “collaborative.” The report outlines four key trends in creating employee value proposition:
- Aligning work to future value by anticipating change
- Building brand resonance to attract the talent you want as an organization
- Curating the work experience to make work simple and intuitive so that people grow and thrive
- Delivering talent-led change by inspiring a growth mindset
What we can do to attract and retain teachers
Miami-Dade County Public Schools and San Antonio ISD are paying attention to these trends, and transforming their strategy and how they think about teacher recruiting and retention. Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS) is taking a multi-pronged approach to retaining good, early career teachers – the teachers with 3-5 years of experience. They are starting to build relationships with these teachers even before they join the district, by creating a “Pre-service Teacher Online Connections” program which connects pre-service teachers with teacher leaders at MDCPS. They are also ensuring that teachers coming into the profession with alternative degrees are able to have the best experience possible, through their MINT 2.0 program. MINT stands for Mentoring Induction for New Teachers and offers people changing careers a way to get certified and mentored by a teacher leader. Finally, the district is providing consistent professional learning to their school principals who must do the everyday work to develop their teachers and maintain a culture which retains their teams.
3 Systems Level Levers
|School Level Supports
|Alignment of individuals
|Point of impact in the community
|Educator development and networking for continuous learning
|MINT induction program
|Monthly principal meetings focused on collaborative practices
|Coaches for skills development and mentors for creating relationships and shared experiences
MDCPS is intentionally focused on developing relationships between new teachers and their teacher leaders. In a poll they conducted, the top reason teachers stay in MDCPS is due to their relationships with their peers. The district is also taking a differentiated approach to engaging early career teachers and late career teachers. Other innovations include the way MDCPS is expanding their pool by convincing potential career changers.
In MDCPS we talked about one of their many strategies – mentorship. In San Antonio ISD (SAISD), we will draw attention to their work around relationships and conversations. SAISD is focused on training people to have conversations with intentionality and helping administrators develop the skills to have difficult conversations in a skillful way. SAISD is working with Crucial Conversations and iPEC Coaching to develop their administration’s and school leadership’s ability to deepen relationships and resolve tensions. SAISD is working towards micro-learning with Crucial Conversations. The HR and professional learning teams are consistently designing conditions to model, engage, and promote the skills needed to be fluent in Crucial Conversations. The teams at SAISD are working towards building habits which lead to more success and smaller failures so people stick with the Crucial Conversations strategies. SAISD has further expanded commitment to conversations by also bringing in iPEC Coaching, which is an approach to think about the whole person, and it starts with empathizing with the other person’s energy level and meeting them at that level. SAISD is expanding upon their leadership strategies based on empathic leadership and servant leadership. While the district continues to get a lot of inspiration from other sectors, the challenge has been taking those materials and contextualizing them for teachers and school leaders. This is an area where the education sector as a whole often feels challenged – the ability to transfer and contextualize strategies and programs from other industries.
Both MDCPS and SAISD are not bound by what you normally see in education. They aim to be creative and willing to try new things they see elsewhere that may work in their organizations. School districts are competing to recruit and retain top talent not only with other school districts, but with other industry sectors. In order to be successful in attracting and retaining employees, they need to feel valued, supported in their growth, and frequently need to experience joy in their work. As one of the largest employers in any community, school districts take on additional responsibilities that are often not highlighted. As a large employer, the culture of your organization influences the rest of the community. The behaviors and emotions of our workforce engages the rest of the community at grocery stores, restaurants, homes, churches, and community events. As employers like MDCPS and SAISD transform their practices to focus on mentoring and conversations, what are some of the key lessons learned for education and other sectors to consider? In a fast-changing world which requires agility, employers (including school districts) are largely taking on more responsibility to educate and develop their people. While universities and alternative certification programs need to adapt to these demands and tweak their curricula based on new needs, they are often risk-averse due to the legacy of policies not modernized to meet today’s needs.
Leading analysts like Josh Bersin identify the key professional skills in demand as: adaptability, collaboration, cultural awareness, and leadership. As large employers in education creating significant economic impact, competing to recruit a tight workforce, and preparing our kids for the future, we have an enormous challenge ahead of us. The only way we will be successful is by changing how we think about the problems and working to bring new team habits into our everyday work that helps create diverse, equitable, and inclusive environments into our schools and district offices. We have to help our teams create trusting relationships to engage our peers, and give them the confidence to achieve goals. As leaders, we need to design frequent “peak moments” for our teams which they will cherish and remember. While we have a teacher shortage, it’s nothing like the shortage other industries are facing and those industries are going to be aggressive about what they can offer to our pool of educators. Not only do we need to think about attracting top talent, but we have to be more purposeful around retaining and developing the talent we attract.
Sutcher, Darling-Hammond, and Carver-Thomas, 2016, “A Coming Crisis in Teaching? Teacher Supply, Demand, and Shortages in the U.S.”, Learning Policy Institute
The New Teacher Center, “Counting the Cost, A Commitment to Educational Equity that Yields Returns” October 2019
Sintia Radu, Aug 23, 2018, “STEM Worker Shortage at a Crisis, Survey Shows”, U.S. News
Parija Kavilanz, May 4, 2018, “The US can’t keep up with demand for health aides, nurses and doctors”, CNN
Mercer, “Global Talent Trends 2019”