Recruitment and retention top of mind for large, urban districts

Only about half of the 100 largest urban districts in the U.S. intend to bolster staff recruitment efforts through training local talent, offering bonuses or creating more flexible job roles, according to an ongoing review of district spending plans conducted by the Center on Reinventing Public Education.

Due to the one-time nature of state and federal COVID-19 relief dollars, local educational agencies have expressed concern over relying on these funds to hire staff that may have to be laid off once the revenue stream runs dry.

“As school districts continue addressing pandemic-related learning losses, they will need to think bigger and more long-term to tackle the root of long-standing staffing challenges,” researchers wrote. “But for leaders to reimagine their workforce, they’ll need continued support from state and federal policymakers. That support could make room for districts to explore new approaches to staffing, such as redefining job duties and teacher role requirements, helping under-skilled workers enter the profession, or even boosting salaries to compete with higher-paying industries. Doing so will ensure their staff is more resilient and prepared for future crises and ready to help students recover from pandemic losses.”

According to their findings, professional development is the most common strategy being employed to support staff — 89 large and urban districts publicly communicated new plans to support workers, with 84 reporting more professional development opportunities. Among these districts, 44 plan to train staff to better support students academically, while 21 will train staff how to support students’ social-emotional needs and well-being. Many LEAs are training both for academic and social-emotional supports, researchers noted.

Fifty-two planned to invest in recruitment strategies, such as establishing grow-your-own pipeline partnership programs with local universities to expand and diversify the new teacher pool (37), offering hiring bonuses (17) or relaxing teacher certification requirements (three), and investing in coaching and mentoring or staff well-being programs (26). Eight districts plan to fund new virtual or mobile recruitment efforts. Some are planning to do a combination of the above.

To retain established teachers, 31 LEAs said they planned to offer one-time bonuses or salary increases, 26 plan to provide teacher mentoring programs and 26 intend to support staff members’ well-being — likely in response to widespread reports of teacher burnout, according to researchers.