I read the South Carolina Department of Education’s “Teacher Salary Schedule Structure Recommendations” with great interest — it was one of the first school districts to retain the services of my company, E Squared, to help them recruit teachers.
The 42-page report, compiled by the Committee on Educator Recruitment and Retention, included a list of 29 items, plus a survey of each district’s rating on teacher/principal satisfaction or dissatisfaction. Not surprisingly, low salary was the leading area of dissatisfaction, with 127 votes. Lack of teacher/administrative support followed closely with 118 votes. From my perspective, the report totally misses the mark because the committee only addressed compensation and marketing issues. There was no one on the committee with professional recruiting experience.
We know that right now 1.75 million — half of all of the teachers in the US — could decide to retire. We are ignoring two other elephants in the room that only deepen the crisis.
Elephant No. 1: Of the 110,000 new education graduates, 40 percent will never go to work in a classroom.
Elephant No. 2: Roughly 40 to 50 percent of the 66,000 graduates who will enter teaching will leave the field entirely within five years.
When we factor in these well documented issues we can project a 1.8 million teacher shortage in 2023. That averages out to 13 open positions for every school, public, charter and private, in the United States.
Recruiting is a demanding but rewarding occupation, and I firmly believe that great placement is a win for everyone. Based upon my experience working with schools in South Carolina, I offer some suggestions.
Educators across the board — whether state, district or higher education — must develop and fine-tune a metric that evaluates the success and longevity of teacher placement, not just the financial cost to the district.
Districts must think in competitive marketing terms. They should clearly articulate what the school needs, and also what it can offer a candidate. The one-size-fits-most method is useless.
Committing to a uniform method of interviewing to use a balanced scorecard will result in hiring the best candidate, not someone’s buddy.
Schools must stop hiring to merely fill a position and start hiring to build winning teams.
They should make it easy to apply. Current online application methods take from hours to a full day to fill out. While background checks are mandatory and will tell you if a candidate had done something in that state, reference checks will also alert you to the likelihood that a candidate may do something wrong. Don’t skip this step.
Exit interviews by an independent third party will allow you to understand that money is often the excuse, but rarely the reason teachers leave.
Finally, be nice. How I, as a recruiter, am treated is an indication of how a candidate will be treated. My recruiter’s “Hall of Shame” includes principals who refused to return my calls even though I had been retained by them to help find great teachers; and a district which alienated two Spanish teachers I recruited, but then came to me the following year and said, “This time we’ll be nice to them.”
One of South Carolina’s largest districts asked me to come in and speak with them about recruitment. Midway through the day I took this group out to lunch, but their HR officer was so arrogant and rude that before the food came, I paid for lunch and left. Evidently their arrogance continues — they list 11 responsibilities for a middle school position and other than salary and benefits they articulate no other reason to work there. The job was posted in early November and the churn continues.
Sure, a competitive salary is important, but school culture trumps currency every day. I am looking for an AP Chemistry teacher. Guess whose district I’m looking in?