Attracting Exceptional Teachers

Vol. 12 No. 9

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As we inch closer to graduation, we start to think about what graduates will do as young adults entering the “real world.” If a recent study by centrist think tank Third Way is right, few of our highest achievers consider teaching as a personal career goal.

In a paper released last month, Third Way announced that only 17% of high-achieving undergraduates—that is, those with a GPA of 3.3 or higher—would be “very interested” in becoming a K-12 teacher. Such a low interest rate may be due to the education profession’s “major image problem,” as Third Way put it. Half (50%) of respondents consider teaching to be “less prestigious” than other jobs. Worse, education was listed as the number one profession for “average” people, rather than high-achievers like themselves.

While a number of factors have contributed to the decline of teaching’s prestige in the professional realm, Third Way argues that the conversation to repair the educational system has been misdirected:

Although the last decade of reforms made strides in ushering in a new era of teacher accountability, these have done comparatively little to improve teacher professionalization. All too often, the conversation centered primarily on getting rid of the bad teachers, further perpetuating a negative image of the profession.

While the public education sector has its own problems to work through—state-mandated testing, government interference, unions, and the like—Third Way’s report presents private schools with a unique opportunity to take a look at their own faculty paradigms. Is your program focused on the negative or the positive? Is your attention on ridding your school of troublesome teachers or on hiring (and retaining!) inspirational, top-talent faculty?

If your philosophy follows the latter—teaching and retention versus degrading and firing—then you’re in for a tough road. You can’t afford to hire mediocrity, even if it’s the “best of the average” available, as the Millennials seem to think in the Third Way study. But how do you attract the crème de la crème of talent to a profession they see as average instead of exceptional?

Our research publication Ideas and Perspectives has discussed this issue before, and Third Way’s five methods of disrupting the traditional professional development models echo I&P’s findings. Two of Third Way’s proposed adjustments should resonate with private-independent school administrators: Setting high bars for teacher performance/certification and increased compensation standards.

(A note on compensation: While Third Way's study specifically mentions increased pay to attract teachers, there are other ways to provide fair compensation to teachers beyond shelling out more money. Try alternative compensation methods like greater professional development opportunities or better health care options and see if those don't make a difference.)

Compensation and setting professional goals must not occur in isolation. Both are only part of a broader "battle plan" for hiring and keeping great teachers. If your school becomes known for attracting and retaining exceptional talent, consider this folk truism: “Birds of a feather flock together.” When you have great people on staff, others may follow.

To learn more about what it takes to hire, train, evaluate, and retain exceptional teachers, enroll in ISM’s Comprehensive Faculty Development: From Recruitment to Evaluation to Retention workshop at our Summer Institute in Stowe, Vermont! Led by veteran ISM Consultant Terry Moore, CFD will teach you the theory behind revolutionary teacher-training techniques, as well as give you a battle plan to execute when you return home.

Additional ISM resources:
Private School News Vol. 13 No. 1 Stereotypes of Generation Y and—Ooh, Shiny!
ISM Monthly Update for Division Heads Vol. 6 No. 8 The New Generation of Teachers and Personnel
ISM Monthly Update for Business Managers Vol. 12 No. 1 Employee Benefits You Might Not Think of as Benefits
ISM Monthly Update for School Heads Vol. 12 No. 8 Everything but the Kitchen Sink: Five Common Job Posting Mistakes

Additional ISM resources for Gold Consortium members:
I&P Vol. 36 No. 14 Generation Differences: The New Management Paradigm
I&P Vol. 33 No. 7 Compensation, Broadbanding, and Teacher Impact
I&P Vol. 37 No. 1 Systematically Attracting, Developing, Rewarding, and Retaining Faculty: A Mission-Based Model for 21st Century Schools
I&P Vol. 34 No. 15 Why the Worst (and Best) Teachers Matter
I&P Vol. 33 No. 3 Faculty Recruitment: Teacher Quality vs. Quantity

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