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Studies Corroborate Findings That Teachers Back Reforms to Recruit, Retain Talent in Hard-to-Staff Schools

Two separately commissioned studies—a series of focus groups and a national poll—find teachers open to reform, though often unaware of proposed policy changes

October 11, 2005

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS—What will it take to get highly qualified teachers to work in hard-to-staff schools? America often hears politicians', pundits', and reformers' answers to that question—but what do teachers themselves think? A series of focus groups and a national poll commissioned, respectively, by Learning Point Associates and The Teaching Commission, found out. Among the findings, summarized in a report titled Teachers Off the Record being released today, 77 percent of teachers polled believe higher salaries should be paid to teachers working in low-income schools, yet very few educators are truly educated about proposals to pay such teachers more or otherwise reform the way teachers in hard-to-staff schools are recruited, retained, rewarded, and supported.

Teachers Off the Record: Findings From Recent Public Opinion Research, published by Learning Point Associates and the Teaching Commission, synthesizes and distills findings from: (1) a series of focus groups conducted by Learning Point Associates and released in a separate document, Adding the Critical Voice: A Dialogue With Practicing Teachers on Teacher Recruitment and Retention in Hard-to-Staff Schools, this week and (2) a national poll of teachers released by The Teaching Commission earlier this year.

"Learning Point Associates and the Teaching Commission agree that better policies are needed to recruit and retain effective teachers in hard-to-staff schools," stated Gina Burkhardt, CEO, Learning Point Associates. "It is our hope that the information provided in these studies will add the opinions of teachers to this discussion and influence policy decisions that support better teaching and learning for all students."

Typically, hard-to-staff schools are staffed with the least experienced and least prepared teachers. Twenty percent of teachers in high-poverty schools have fewer than four years of teaching experience, compared to 11 percent in low-poverty schools (National Center for Education Statistics [NCES], 2000, Monitoring School Quality: An Indicators Report).

In an effort to level the learning field, policymakers at the federal, state, and local levels are considering and, in some cases, already implementing a wide range of reforms such as differential pay, pay for performance, tuition reimbursement, better professional development, and recruitment reforms.

According to Teachers Off the Record:

  • Monetary incentives such as free tuition for graduate education, student-loan forgiveness, increased pension contributions plus immediate vesting, relocation assistance, and reduced tuition of one's children at state colleges and universities would attract more teachers to hard-to-staff schools.
  • Dedicated time for ongoing professional development combined with focused and supportive school leadership would attract teachers to hard-to-staff schools.
  • Changes to recruitment processes, such as implementing an online recruitment system shared by multiple districts or offered through the state to streamline the application process, were favored by most teachers.

In response to these findings, Learning Point Associates and the Teaching Commission recommend:

  • Developing an online education policy clearinghouse to provide teachers with access to information about recruitment and retention practices in their state and across the country.
  • Creating a mechanism by which teachers who support serious structural reforms can leverage their opinions.
  • Identifying opportunities to include teacher opinions in policymaking at the district and state levels.

Both reports can be accessed online at:

Adding the Critical Voice: A Dialogue With Practicing Teachers on Teacher Recruitment and Retention in Hard-to-Staff Schools

Teaching at Risk: A Call to Action (Adobe® Reader® PDF)

About Learning Point Associates
Learning Point Associates is a nonprofit educational organization with more than 20 years direct experience empowering educators to transform student learning. We equip teachers, administrators, and policymakers with research-based strategies and services targeted to the unique needs of the field. Our work continues to expand both nationally and internationally with offices in Naperville, Illinois; Chicago; and Washington, D.C. We create professional development services designed to improve educational practice, evaluate educational program data to determine the impact on student learning, and implement technology solutions to provide schools with data-driven decision-making processes.

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