As the Baby Boomers Retire: Preparing to Fill the Open Positions

According to the U.S. Dept. of Labor, in the 2006-16 decade, “total employment is projected to increase by 15.6 million jobs, or 10 percent, slightly less than the 15.9 million jobs, or 12 percent, during the 1996-2006 decade. This slowdown in the growth of the labor force is expected, in part, because of the aging and retiring of baby boomers.  As a result, the need to replace workers who retire or leave the labor force for other reasons — called replacement needs — is projected to create a significant number of additional job openings.”

Specifically, employment for teachers is expected to increase by 12 percent. This growth will create 479,000 additional teacher positions because of the size of the occupations in this group.

In some districts, this could cause extreme competition for teachers at best, and teacher shortages at worst. What is being done to attract, hire, and retain not only teachers, but administrators and other school employees? The answer to the question comes from the federal government and two of the nation’s largest school districts.

Uncle Sam Lends a Hand
The federal government sponsors four initiatives designed to draw both young first-career and seasoned second-career professionals into education, while also filling specific needs — like math and science and low-income area teacher shortages — throughout the country.

1. Adjunct Teacher Corps
The Adjunct Teacher Corps www.ed.gov/about/inits/ed/competitiveness/teachercorps.html, is part of President Bush’s $5.9B American Competitiveness Initiative, which includes $380M in FY2007 U.S. Department of Education funds to strengthen K-12 math and science instruction. It calls upon “the skills of well-qualified individuals with subject-matter expertise who are outside of the public education system to meet specialized teaching needs in our nation’s secondary schools….” The goal is to have 30,000 adjunct teachers by 2015.

2. Teaching Language for National Security and American Competitiveness
This program, www.ed.gov/teachers/how/academic/foreign-language/teaching-language.html, falls under President Bush's National Security Language Initiative. Specifically, the Department of Education and its partners (Departments of State and Defense and the Director of National Intelligence) “will focus resources toward educating students, teachers, and government workers in critical need foreign languages, such as Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, and increasing the number of advanced-level speakers in those and other languages.”

The Department of Education's FY 2007 proposed budget included “$5M to create a Language Teacher Corps with the goal of having 1,000 new foreign language teachers in our schools before the end of the decade.” It also included a $24M program whereby 24 school districts in partnership with colleges and universities would create programs in critical need languages in 2007.

3. Teacher Incentive Fund
The goal of the U.S. Department of Education's $99M Teacher Incentive Fund, www.ed.gov/nclb/methods/teachers/incentivefund.html, is to recognize and reward good teachers. The fund is designed to “enable teachers and principals to be more effective at improving student achievement toward meeting Adequate Yearly Progress goals, reform compensation systems to reward teachers and principals for improvements in student achievement, increase the number of dedicated and effective teachers in high-poverty classrooms who teach disadvantaged and minority students in hard-to-staff subjects, and create sustainable, performance-based compensation systems.” Thirty-four grantees have received this funding.

4. Cancellation/Deferment Options for Teachers
Under this program, studentaid.ed.gov/PORTALSWebApp/students/english/teachercancel.jsp?tab=repaying, teachers serving in low-income or subject-matter shortage areas may be able to cancel or defer their student loans. This program has four arms.
  •  Federal Perkins Loan Program loans might be cancelled for full-time teaching at low-income schools or in certain subject areas.
  • Portions of Stafford Loans received after Oct. 1, 1998, may be cancelled for full-time teaching for five consecutive years in a low-income school (this applies to FFEL Stafford Loans, Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans, and in some cases, Consolidation Loans).
  • FFEL or Direct Stafford Loans may be deferred if borrowed before July 1, 1993, for teaching full time in a teacher shortage area (if borrowed after July 1, 1993, a forbearance may apply).
  • Paul Douglas Teacher Scholarship recipients may be eligible for reduced service obligations.

School Districts Take Action
Two of the nation’s largest school districts, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) and Clark County School District in Las Vegas (Clark County), are pros at recruiting, primarily because of their size.

CPS saw a peak in the retirement of baby boomers in the past two years. Still, with 408,601 students in 655 schools and an operating budget of $4.648B, size is a greater factor in recruitment. “We hire around 1,600 teachers per year,” says Ascencion Juarez, CPS’s chief human resources officer. “We recruit all across the country and, in some cases, all over the world. For example, we recruit math and science teachers from China and Korea. We look to Spain to hire for world language. We plan to hire from India and South America this coming year.”

One way CPS attracts teachers is via an alternative certification program, which is used, to a large degree, to hire in math, science, and world language and, to a lesser degree, in special education. “Around 25 percent of our teachers come out of this program every year,” says Juarez. “This includes individuals like doctors, lawyers, chemists, and engineers, who are changing careers and coming into education. They bring with them greater content knowledge and real-life experience.”

Another certification program CPS uses, this one to draw principals, is New Leaders for New Schools (nlns.org), a non-profit organization that attracts, prepares and supports “outstanding individuals to become the next generation of school leaders in response to the immense need for exceptional principals in our nation's urban public schools.”

“NLNS provides training and even helps candidates get the Type 75 Principal Certificate that’s required in Illinois,” says Juarez. He notes that this works well because CPS is different from other school districts in that they don’t select principals for their schools. Rather, local school councils select principals from an eligible list and CPS appoints them.

Finally, like many districts, CPS attracts young, first-career teachers by providing a place for education students from a number of Illinois state universities to do their student teaching, even going so far as to house them. “We hope that, once they’re done with their education,” says Juarez, “they’ll come back to work for us.”

Like CPS, Clark County hasn’t felt a great crunch from retiring baby boomers. In this case, it’s because of growth. “In the past 10 years,” says Emily Aguero, executive director over recruitment and staffing, “we’ve grown so much that we’ve opened 10 to 12 schools each year, making recruitment quite a challenge. This year, we only hired 1,500 teachers where, in each of the past 10 years, we’ve hired 3,000.”

Aguero notes that the district has always been proactive toward growing and promoting from within, successfully producing a pool of applicants for administration. As a result, they haven’t felt the concern of retiring baby boomers — they’ve been able to replace them.

In addition to ongoing recruitment across the country, Clark County has two notable programs to draw teachers. The first allows teachers who retire from the high-need areas of science, math, and special education to be rehired. They collect full retirement benefits plus a full salary. “The teachers must be highly qualified,” says Aguero. “This program is reviewed every year with the state department of education as to what our needs are and who we could take back.”

The second program is called Step Up (Student to Teacher Enlightenment Project Undergraduate Program). It is offered to juniors in eight of Clark County’s high schools to develop new teachers. “College professors come to the high schools and teach education courses so that, by the time the students graduate high school, they have accumulated 42 hours toward a degree in education,” says Karyn Wright, director of teacher induction and mentoring. “From there, they move into Nevada State College to complete an associate’s degree to become teacher aides. We started this program five years ago, and our partner is Clark County Education Association Community Foundation. This year, we have close to 400 students in the program.”

Recruiting, hiring, and training are expensive propositions. Therefore, once new employees are in place, districts get the best return on their investment by retaining new hires.

At CPS, all new teachers participate in an induction program and receive two years of mentoring. “Much of the training in the schools is the responsibility of the local school,” says Juarez. “The principals at each school are the key to retaining teachers, as they’re the educational leaders in their buildings.

Clark County also has a mentoring program. “We follow the work of Ellen Moir, executive director of the New Teacher Center at the University of California in Santa Cruz,” says Wright, “who has detected the stages that teachers go through during their first year. We recognize that not every teacher needs the same support at the same time, and we talk with our mentors about appropriate types of support to meet new teachers’ needs.”

At the beginning of the year, Clark County provides opportunities for new teachers to meet other new teachers from their state or region of the country. “We’ve learned that this is important to them,” explains Wright. “Also they meet teachers with similar hobbies.

“Finally,” says Wright, “we provide community information and organizations to new teachers to help them connect with the community, as there’s much more to Las Vegas than the strip. We do want them to connect with the district, but we also want them to connect with the community as a whole and see that it’s a nice place to live, raise a family, and call home.”

It is programs at both the local and federal level that will continue to attract teachers, administrators, and other key personnel to the education field to reduce the impact felt from replacing retiring baby boomers. Both innovative ideas and simply paying attention to the details when offering a personal touch will see any district through the next eight years.

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