California Department of Education
Taking Center Stage – Act II

Hire and retain qualified teachers

According to findings from the California School Boards Association, California’s "teacher pipeline" is drying up at the same time that the No Child Left Behind requirements for highly qualified teachers1 raise challenges for middle grades principals. This is not an urban problem. In fact, it is an issue that every district in the state is likely to face. It is also a national trend. The National Center for Education Information (Outside Source) says 40 percent of America’s public school teachers plan to leave the profession in the next five years. . . . Increasingly, though, teachers are filtering into the profession through university or district internships, which allow individuals to complete their teacher preparation coursework on the job with mentoring and support from colleges, universities or through school districts. Nevertheless, the challenges that new teachers encounter once they are on the job are daunting, and the level of support and professional development they receive can vary greatly.2

Over the next ten years, some 97,000 teachers, nearly a third of California’s teacher workforce, expect to retire.3 Middle schools in California face a difficult challenge in recruiting qualified candidates for two reasons:

  1. There is no official credentialing program for middle school teachers. In the past, many teachers came to middle school with a multiple-subject elementary credential. The NCLB requires highly qualified teachers; therefore, more and more middle-level teachers must possess a single-subject credential. However, many people who choose that credential path do so because they want to teach their specialty in a high school setting.

  2. Many teacher candidates do not receive training on adolescent development and, as a result, lack insights into how to deliver curriculum to meet the needs of young adolescent.

A Possible Dream: Retaining California Teachers So All Students Learn (PDF; Outside Source) analyzed data collected from a survey of 2,000 current and former California public school teachers about the professional and personal reasons for leaving or remaining in the classroom. According to the study’s author, “Although better compensation matters to teachers, if the classroom and school environment are not conducive to good teaching, higher salaries are not a prominent factor in increasing teacher retention rates.”4

Preservice training for the middle grades is essential, particularly in light of the lack of a middle grades credential. In a speech to the Association for Teacher Educators, Stanford University education professor Linda Darling-Hammond called for a strengthening of teacher-preparation programs. According to Darling-Hammond, classroom teachers—more than any other factor—influence student achievement. "We need to be artistic in articulating how to prepare teachers, rather than lowering standards. It would be penny-wise and pound-foolish to bring people into teaching unarmed."5 This is especially true for people going into the middle grades, where students face rapid physical, social, and psychological changes.

In a report by The Finance Project (Outside Source) (a nonprofit research group for public and private leaders), the authors compare pre-service and in-service training for teachers with that of law, accounting, nursing, architecture, law enforcement, and firefighting. The report’s findings provide insight into areas where teacher training might improve:

  • Most of the other fields have more uniform pre- and in-service training guidelines.
  • Clinical experiences in education are less structured than those in other professions.
  • Peer learning is not emphasized as much in education, although it is becoming more of a focus.6

According to a Duke University study, new teachers are more likely to remain in the profession if they are satisfied with the principal’s leadership and school climate. In addition to mentoring programs and salary hikes, principal leadership and school climate must be part of a comprehensive effort to retain well-qualified teachers.7

Selecting good candidates is only part of the hiring decision, especially at the middle school level where knowledge of adolescent development is critical. As a result, induction and mentoring strategies that help new teachers participate in a professional learning community are key to teacher satisfaction, success, and retention. The principal needs to assign new teachers to strong teams in which they will receive mentoring on how to use standards-based lessons, benchmark assessments, and interventions for struggling students. Leaders must choose mentors who have received education for their role and who share the core values expressed in the school’s vision.8

In a study of Wisconsin middle schools, for example, Kristine Hipp found that several practices significantly affected teacher’s feelings of efficacy. Principals who actively modeled positive behaviors, who recognized and rewarded teachers’ accomplishments, and who worked to inspire a sense of group purpose fostered stronger feelings of efficacy among teachers.9

Related Links

Hold teachers accountable

Assign teachers/team placements

1 NCLB Teacher Requirements Resource Guide. Sacramento: California Department of Education, 2004.
2 Bryan Taylor, “Is There Light at the End of the Teacher Pipeline?” California Schools Magazine, (Summer, 2006).
3 Jack O’Connell, State of Education 2006. Speech, Sacramento, California Department of Education: February 7, 2006.
4 Ken Futernick, A Possible Dream: Retaining California Teachers So All Students Learn (PDF; Outside Source) . Sacramento: California State University, 2007, 2.
5 “Educator Condemns Lack of Respect for Teacher Prep,” Education Week (March 1, 2006).
6 Katherine S. Neville, Rachel H. Sherman, and Carol E. Cohen, Preparing and Training Professionals: Comparing Education to Six Other Fields (PDF; Outside Source) . Washington, D.C.: The Finance Project, 2005, 33.
7Principal Leadership, School Climate Critical to Retaining Beginning Teachers (Outside Source), Duke University News (April 12, 2006).
8 Hugh Burkett, Eight Don’ts of School Reform. Keynote address given at the On the Right Track 4 Symposium, San Jose, California, April 2006.
9 K. A. Hipp, Teacher Efficacy: Influence of Principal Leadership Behavior. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New York, April 1996. (ERIC Document No. ED396409).

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