Here in Howard County, we are lucky to have many dedicated, competent teachers in our public schools. However, the education of our students should not simply be left up to luck.
If programs for attracting and retaining quality teachers are going to be effective, they must be carefully planned and orchestrated.
Thankfully, Howard County is headed in the right direction. For instance, we have “Grow Your Own” programs and opportunities for teachers to attain loan forgiveness.
But more can be done to make Howard County a place that compels teachers to enter and stay in the profession.
Here are a few research-backed recommendations:
- Offer competitive salaries.
Teacher pay in Maryland is significantly higher than the national average. According to WTOP, it’s one of the Top 10 highest-paying states.
So here in Howard County, we have to work hard to remain competitive with nearby districts.
- Decrease the payment gap.
Research shows a significant gap in salaries between teachers and other occupations that require college degrees. And this gap has steadily grown over time.
In 2015, teachers were earning an average of 11% less than their peers (including benefits). These stats show that we have the ability to pay teachers more, but choose not to.
Unsurprisingly, low pay has an impact on morale. 68% of teachers that leave the profession say that a salary increase would induce them to return.
- Work with creditors to provide loan forgiveness programs.
Currently, the Maryland General Assembly is considering a piece of legislation (House Bill 1180) that will help teachers throughout the state repay certain student loans. In order to receive this reimbursement, teachers will have to meet specific requirements, and they’ll have to demonstrate how they’ve utilized those loans.
Offering help to pay off student debt can be a powerful way to motivate the recruitment of quality new teachers. School districts can offer to pay a portion of the debt, or they can work directly with the lending institution to consolidate loans or negotiate lower interest rates.
If Bill 1180 passes, it will create more opportunities, which could make teaching in Maryland even more appealing.
- Invest in Grow Your Own programs.
Grow Your Own programs are proven ways to recruit quality teachers.
According to the Frederick News Post, these programs have become increasingly popular in Maryland school districts. One two-year program for students who are preparing to become teachers covers professional issues that new teachers will face, then offers a full semester with a mentor in a classroom.
These kinds of programs have the added benefit of increasing workplace diversity. We can continue building on the success of this program by doing more to help members of our community enter the profession.
- Ensure that each school has a quality mentoring program.
Mentoring programs for new teachers are commonplace today, but the quality of these programs is inconsistent. Maryland is fortunate to have clear guidelines in place about mentoring new teachers.
If we want novice teachers to stay and improve, it’s important for the state to keep prioritizing quality mentoring programs in our schools.
- Foster a dynamic in which teachers have direct input about school policies.
According to recent research, a top reason that teachers cited for staying in the profession is a sense of purpose. Teachers need to feel that they’re collaborating on a cohesive team toward a common goal.
In other words, when teachers feel like they have ownership in key decisions that affect them, they’re more likely to stay.
- Provide housing provisions to make relocation easier.
Relocation is a common reason that teachers cite when they leave the profession.
So in Indiana and New Jersey, school districts have successfully attracted quality teachers by offering them discounted or subsidized housing, or by assisting them with down payments or relocation expenses.
There are many wonderful things about teaching in Howard County Public Schools. But by thinking outside the box and making our district even more appealing, we can attract and retain the kinds of teachers that our students truly deserve.