Want Quality Education? Recruit, Train, and Retain Quality Teachers

teacher_classroom flickr_audio_luci_store_it

How can we improve education? How can we take a historically high-poverty, low-performing school district, such as in Allendale, and make significant progress to become a high-flying school?

Ideally, improving our school report card happens when families, schools, and the community work together. However, even if we cannot get most families and our community on board, we can still improve our education system.

Of course, improvement will require changes in how we think and approach the situation, but it will be well worth it. And this can happen in Allendale if we Recruit, Train, and Retain high-quality teachers.

Recruiting

One thing I keep hearing in this area is, “We need to hire more local teachers.” But this is missing the focus. We do have some great local teachers, but there are talented teachers in other places that are looking for an opportunity that this school district offers.

Let’s not focus on hiring local teachers, but on high-quality teachers. Yes, there can be an advantage of having local teachers, but perhaps teachers could be offered a bonus for living locally (in Allendale or neighboring county). Tennessee is offering teachers up to $7000 to teach at low-performing schools.

We need to recruit the best, because High-Quality Teachers make a difference.

Training

From my research and conversations, I’ve learned that potential teachers are not receiving sufficient education in two key areas: 1) classroom management, and 2) how poverty affects the childhood brain. The latter issue is especially crucial for an area like Allendale.

We need to better understand that the behaviors we see are not the main issue. The negative behaviors are symptoms of chronically-stressed brain neurons, and these stressors are common in poverty. Training about this topic is available and should part of all teachers’ development.

Retaining

We’ve seen it happen. Teachers are hired and trained, then they leave a few years later. Nearly half of all new teachers in the US leave their jobs within 5 years, and this turnover costs our country’s school districts $7 billion annually. And higher turnover correlates with lower test scores in ELA and math.

I believe the three main factors to teacher retention are pay, support of the administration, and teacher empowerment. This last point is key. A recent study shows “a moderately strong link between teacher empowerment and school performance” (Lyons, 2013). Empowering quality teachers will help us retain them, and will improve school performance.

Conclusion

Yes, we need to engage and equip parents. Yes, we need to get community members involved. At the least, we need to make every effort possible to engage families and the community.

But even if we can’t get them on board, we can make a significant difference in these children’s lives if we recruit, train, and retain more high-quality teachers.

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**image courtesy of audio-luci-store.it via flickr

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