School board members attending the Federal Relations Network (FRN) Conference had a number of opportunities to learn about the various congressional and cabinet-level efforts to improve teacher efficacy through innovative recruiting, retention, and compensation models.
Led by NSBA’s Director of Federal Programs Lucy Gettman, one of Monday’s final sessions recapped the proposed and draft versions of these federal efforts and, more importantly, drew audience members into a strategic discussion on the issue.
“What are some of the things you have done or would like to do to recruit, retain, or compensate talented instructional staff?” Gettman asked the board members in attendance.
One board member said her Arizona district had been struggling with declining enrollment and subsequent declining funding for years. To make sure student achievement didn’t decline along with it, she said star principals were identified and placed in the most difficult schools. “And good teachers will follow good principals,” she said. “It doesn’t matter they don’t get extra pay or have a challenging job, they are really happy to work with them.”
In San Francisco, one board member said that district leadership has engaged in a multi-year and multi-layered effort to improve the quality of teaching. Voter-approved tax hikes and bonds, for instance, have provided a slight increase for all staff, as well as, those who agree to work in hard-to-staff schools or fill chronically vacant positions. In return, the district has raised their standards above the state of California and made it easier to remove ineffective teachers, removing 18 of them last year alone with the union’s blessing.
“The key is you need to link higher standards to compensation,” she said.
But what happens when additional funding just isn’t available? One board member in suburban Omaha, Neb., said his district maintain its competitive edge in recruiting top-quality candidates by emphasizing its size.
“We say, ‘even though we can’t pay you what others can, we consider ourselves to be the right size district for you,’” he said, referring to its smaller student-to-teacher ratio and district population.