Recruitment, Selection, & Hiring for Disadvantaged Schools

The staffing needs of specific schools often vary.  Equitable access to great teachers and leaders, within districts and across districts, is an important goal for state education agencies. Recruitment, hiring, and placement strategies should target the needs of individual schools as well as specific types of teacher candidates to find the best fit for both the school and the teacher and thus provide better education opportunities for all students. Strategies to attract and retain effective teachers include the following considerations:

  • Unique challenges faced by both urban and rural districts and schools
  • Specific school culture, including the degree of staff collegiality, school climate, and composition of the student population
  • Importance of attracting high-quality candidates into teacher and leader preparation programs
  • Developing strong relationships between school districts and preparation programs to ensure that teachers and leaders are prepared with an eye to meeting district needs

What Can I Do to Support Equitable Access to Great Teachers and Leaders?

Strategies to Consider

  • Align Educator Licensing and Certification

    Align educator licensing and certification systems to the latest research on effective teaching and leading. For example, instead of accepting degrees and coursework to satisfy professional development requirements, consider changing to a focus on job-embedded professional development activities and performance evaluation. Research demonstrates that, unlike degrees and coursework, job-embedded professional development and performance evaluation have a measurable impact on teacher learning and student achievement. 

  • Collect Data on Educator Turnover

    If teacher turnover at some of the partner schools is high, work with the schools to collect data that may point to possible sources of the problem and suggest potential solutions (e.g., teacher satisfaction surveys and school climate indicators).

  • Consider Part-Time Teaching or Job-Sharing

    Make part-time teaching or sharing a teacher across several schools an option when FTE positions are not available in some subject areas.
  • Examine Effectiveness of Incentives for Educator Retention

    Examine incentive-based programs to encourage teachers to stay in or move to high-need schools. 

  • Examine Local Hiring Practices

    Examine hiring practices and other human resource policies to ensure vacancies are filled with excellent educators. Ensure that late hiring timelines are not a barrier to recruitment. 

  • Identify Vacancies Early Through Incentives to Accelerate Hiring

    More effectively compete with other districts for talent by accelerating hiring timelines. One way to do this is to identify vacancies early by providing a monetary incentive for early notification of resignation or retirement, and a monetary penalty for late notice. 
  • Provide Flexible Career Pathways for Teachers and Leaders

    Provide more pathways for job sharing among teachers so that teachers and administrators have greater flexibility to staff schools to meet their students’ needs.

  • Provide Professional Development Opportunities for Teachers and Leaders

    Strengthen partner school and district capacity by providing unique professional development opportunities for partner school teachers and administrators, assisting schools and districts in collecting useful data, and working with them to undertake valuable research and evaluation projects. 

  • Research Possible Financial Incentives for Educator Retention

    Survey effective teachers and leaders currently working in high-poverty schools to determine what type of financial compensation may influence their decisions to move to or stay in high-need schools. It may be that financial incentives alone do not play a large role in teacher and leader recruitment and retention and therefore should be combined with other efforts to increase access to great teachers and leaders. 

  • Strengthen Clinical Training in Educator Preparation

    Strengthen educator preparation program clinical training by:

    • Working together with partner schools to ensure that the program provides the best clinical experience possible for program candidates.
    • Providing clinical opportunities that expose candidates to learners with diverse backgrounds and needs.
    • Ensuring that the program’s partner schools reflect the culture and the student demographics of the schools in which the majority of the program’s graduates are initially placed. 
  • Strengthen Effective Partnerships Between Educator Preparation Programs and Local Education Agencies

    Assess the effectiveness of educator preparation program partnerships with K–12 districts and schools, and jointly develop strategies to strengthen the partnerships for mutual benefit, including a stronger teacher recruitment and professional development pipeline between the program and partner local education agencies. 

  • Support Innovative Incentives to Teachers and Leaders

    Support local innovation related to recruitment and retention incentives (e.g., housing incentives and local market-based salary bonuses) as well as career advancement opportunities that encourage effective teachers to stay in hard-to-staff schools.


  • Allocating Quality: Collective Bargaining Agreements and Administrative Discretion Over Teacher Assignment (Subscription Required)

    This study of Florida districts found that collective bargaining agreements are often more lenient than people think when it comes to administrators’ discretion in teacher assignments—even in large, at-risk districts. Yet administrators often do not take advantage of the flexibilities in their union contracts because of ingrained practices and pressures by teachers and parents for the most effective teachers to teach students with the fewest high needs. It is suggested that improvements in access to great teachers might require changes in the norms and practices within districts and schools with respect to hiring and assigning teachers.
  • Creating and Sustaining Urban Teacher Residencies: A New Way to Recruit, Prepare, and Retain Effective Teachers in High-Needs Districts

    This 2008 publication from The Aspen Institute discusses the clinical residency model of teacher preparation as both an effective preparation strategy and a direct response to the problems of teacher recruitment and retention in high-need schools. Urban teacher residency programs generally have high percentages of minority graduates who are specifically trained, through strong partnerships with urban schools, to be successful teachers in those schools after graduation. The programs continue to mentor and support new teachers for several years after they take full-time positions. Because many of the residency programs prepare their candidates for a specific district, they have easy access to program graduates for mentoring follow-up and can report accurate data on teacher retention and effectiveness.
  • Hillsborough County Renaissance Schools Expo

    In Hillsborough County, Florida, the annual three-day district job fair is limited to high-poverty schools on the first day, and principals in these schools also are exempt from the district requirement that transferring teachers must be given priority before new teachers.
  • Hire Today, Gone Tomorrow: New Teacher Classroom Assignments and Teacher Mobility

    This study examined whether new teachers are, in fact, assigned to the toughest classrooms, and, if so, what effect that has on new teacher turnover. Using administrative data from Florida and the National Schools and Staffing Teacher Follow-Up Survey, the author found that inexperienced teachers usually taught in schools with low-performing, minority, or limited-English-proficient students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Within schools, novice teachers were more likely to teach in classrooms with a larger share of students who were low performing and/or unruly and students from disadvantaged backgrounds. New teacher turnover was significantly correlated with student misbehavior and underperformance. This finding implies that assigning more experienced teachers to more challenging students can help stem new teacher attrition and thus improve access to great teachers and leaders..
  • Houston’s Effective Teacher Pipeline: Workshop Outlines Plans for Improving Low-Performing Schools

    The Houston (Texas) Independent School District (HISD) established the Effective Teacher Pipeline project to address concerns voiced by many teachers about working conditions in high-need schools. HISD is concentrating on a small number of high-need schools to increase the number of effective teachers on those campuses. The intent is to create supportive school cultures by placing several effective teachers at each school. Relocating teachers are given a financial incentive, professional development, and leadership opportunities.
  • Improving the Distribution of Teachers in Low-Performing High Schools

    This brief produced by the Alliance for Excellent Education examines access to great teachers and leaders in high schools. Understanding the dynamics of the teacher labor market can ensure that strategies actually influence teachers’ decisions concerning where to work, as well as how long they stay. Although states and districts have the most influence on teacher policies, federal law also can help improve access to great teachers by supporting and encouraging effective recruitment and retention practices at state and local levels.
  • Kansas Teacher Service Scholarship

    The state provides financial assistance to students pursuing bachelor’s degree programs, as well as current licensed teachers, to pursue endorsements or master’s degrees in hard-to-staff subject areas. The scholarships are available to those teachers who plan to serve a hard-to-staff geographic area at the rate of one year of service for each award year.
  • North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program

    North Carolina established the North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program in 1986 to recruit teacher candidates into public colleges. Due to budgetary concerns, the program in no longer in effect; however, lessons can still be learned from the program structure.The state paid students to attend a public university if they agreed to spend at least four years teaching in a public school after graduation. According to a recent report on the program, 60 percent of the fellows who started teaching 20 years ago still work in public schools today. The program also was able to recruit a diverse group of teacher candidates.
  • Ohio Teacher Incentive Plan

    As part of its Race to the Top initiatives, Ohio provides participating local education agencies with the opportunity to apply for funds to support a teacher incentive plan of up to $7,500 per teacher to address access to great teachers and leaders. The funding may be used for the following: 

    • Relocation and/or retention bonuses
    • Reduced class size
    • Loan forgiveness programs
    • Differentiated pay for effective teachers who assume leadership roles
    • Hiring teachers in shortage areas
    • A combination of options
  • Personnel Improvement Center: The National Center to Improve Recruitment and Retention of Teachers and Related Services Providers for Students With Disabilities

    This center works to increase the nation’s capacity to successfully recruit and retain special educators, early intervention providers, and related service providers to serve the needs of infants, young children, and youth with disabilities and their families. Information on careers, personnel preparation programs, state certification requirements, financial aid, and employment opportunities is maintained and continually updated on this website.
  • Pittsburgh’s Promise-Readiness Corps

    As part of Pittsburgh’s larger Empowering Effective Teachers plan initiative, which includes increasing the exposure of students with high needs to highly effective teachers as a strategic goal, the Promise-Ready Corps (PRC) is a group of ninth- and 10th-grade teachers who have been identified as effective and who will loop with cohorts of students for two years, providing high-quality core instruction and additional advising (an extra 44-minute period). PRC teachers are compensated financially for the extended day and are eligible for a cohort bonus that is shared among team members. They also are provided extra time to collaborate with their PRC colleagues. PRC is currently in place in eight high-need high schools in Pittsburgh.
  • Power Play? Teacher Characteristics and Class Assignments

    Using student and teacher data from Miami-Dade County, Florida, the authors found that less experienced, minority, and female teachers are more likely to be assigned students with lower average prior achievement, more prior behavioral problems, and lower prior attendance rates, especially in schools with stable senior staffs. Moreover, novice teachers were more likely to be assigned students from black and low-income families within the same school. The authors posited that these assignment patterns exist in part because savvy senior teachers influence principals and request the least challenging assignments for themselves. This factor has implications for teacher retention because novice teachers often cite difficult assignments as the reason for leaving.
  • Profiles in Transformation: Charlotte-Mecklenburg (North Carolina) Public Schools Strategic Staffing Initiative

    Charlotte-Mecklenburg (North Carolina) Schools  established the Strategic Staffing Initiative, which moves teams of administrators and teachers to high-need schools. Under this initiative, effective principals are identified and allowed to select effective members of their current staffs to take with them to a high-need school.
  • Public Impact’s Opportunity Culture Initiative

    This initiative highlights the potential of using technology and redesigning teachers’ jobs to ensure excellent teachers. By focusing on redesigning teacher leadership opportunities, teacher pay, and collaborative working environments, the goal of district initiatives is to attract and retain effective teachers in high-need schools.
  • Southern Maine Partnership

    This partnership is a long-established network of 36 districts and the University of Southern Maine. The partnership involves close working relationships among the university and K–12 schools that enhance the university’s teacher preparation program and strengthen the capacity in districts through university-provided technical assistance and professional development and a ready supply of teachers who are already familiar with the area’s students and schools after graduation. The partnership also facilitates research for area schools and beyond conducted by University of Southern Maine faculty and staff.
  • The Distribution of High-Quality Teachers: An Evaluation of California’s Teacher Quality Equity Law

    As of January 2007, California Senate Bill 1655 allows principals in low-performing schools more decision-making authority with respect to voluntary transfers based on seniority. The goals of this law were to promote hiring practices based more on the unique skills and knowledge that a teacher brings to the classroom and create appropriate matches between teachers and schools.
  • The Equity Project Charter School

    The Equity Project (TEP) Charter School in New York City reallocates the regular public school budget to enable the school to pay teachers $125,000 as a recruitment and retention strategy. A recent study by Mathematica Policy Research found a promising impact on student achievement. TEP has adopted its own three Rs for teachers:

    • Rigorous qualifications. Teachers are experts in subject matter and teaching, curriculum development ability, and verbal skills.
    • Redefined expectations. Student achievement is improved by focusing on a professional workday that includes daily peer observations and coteaching, a work year that includes a six-week summer development institute, and professional growth through a mandatory sabbatical once every five or six years.
    • Revolutionary compensation. Teachers receive salaries of $125,000 and a bonus based on schoolwide performance.
  • The Price of Misassignment: The Role of Teaching Assignments in Teach For America Teachers’ Exit From Low-Income Schools and the Teaching Profession (Subscription Required)

    This study considers the national retention rates for Teach For America teachers based on a survey of three cohorts. The researchers found that teachers in more challenging assignments (e.g., split grades, multiple subjects, and out-of-field classes) were more likely to leave their schools or resign from teaching.