AFT - American Federation of Teachers

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Hard-to-Staff Schools

One of the greatest challenges facing our schools is the ability to provide every student with high-quality instruction. Research shows that teacher quality is one of the most important school-related variables affecting student achievement. As teaching and learning conditions in many areas have deteriorated and teacher salaries have not kept pace with inflation, it has become more difficult to attract and retain the best teachers in America's classrooms. The AFT believes there is much that can be done to remedy this situation.

Based on research and members' experience, the AFT has identified key elements that are essential to ensuring that all children have access to quality teachers and teaching. We are committed to pursuing improvements in teaching quality by working with states and local school districts to develop and implement high-quality professional development through legislation and negotiations. It takes equally committed community partners who want to eradicate the nonschool factors that impede student learning to collaborate with us in these efforts. Working together on the recommendations outlined below, we can accomplish our shared goals of improving teaching quality and student achievement alike.

Eliminate Hard-to-Staff Schools

Right now, high-poverty, low-achieving schools nationwide are losing good teachers. The teachers needed in these schools are not applying for the vacant positions. And the teachers who are recruited often leave these schools because working conditions make it impossible for them to do the best job they can. This turnover typically means a less cohesive and less experienced staff. How can we stem this turnover? What would attract teachers to teach in these challenging schools?

Certainly a substantial salary increase would be part of any solution. But, survey data, as well as conversations with scores of teachers, make it clear that increased pay alone will not get teachers to teach in schools that have historically failed their teachers and students. Teachers are more likely to come-and to stay-if a school is known to have an effective principal, safe and clean facilities, exciting opportunities for professional development and collaboration, supportive conditions that include teachers having a say in decision-making, and the staff and resources to quickly and effectively provide the one-on-one and small-group work necessary to help struggling students.

Beyond the basics, districts vary on the specific conditions that need to be in place to attract and retain quality teachers. In some cases, the most appealing incentives also might include tuition reimbursement, housing vouchers, and classroom management; in other cases, pension credits and opportunities to transfer as a group along with other qualified colleagues would work.

AFT Resources

Doing What Matters Most: Investing in Quality Teaching, National Commission on Teaching and America's Future (1997)

AFT Resolution: Recruiting and Retaining Teachers in Hard-to-Staff Schools (2007)

Meeting the Challenge: Recruiting and Retaining Teachers in Hard-to-Staff Schools (2007)

Why New Teachers Stay, American Educator, Summer 2006

Cultivate the Right Solution: It's Attracting and Retaining Experienced Teachers, American Educator, Winter 2006-07

The Impact of Collective Bargaining on Teacher Transfer Rates in Urban High-Poverty Schools (2006)