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Terry Spradlin
Center for Evaluation and Education Policy

Nicole Roales
IU Media Relations

Last modified: Monday, December 18, 2006

Teacher recruitment and retention: A national problem

Dec. 18, 2006

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Teacher quality is one of the most important predictors of a child's academic achievement, but schools in Indiana and across the nation are struggling to employ teachers who are 100 percent qualified to instruct the subjects they are teaching, Indiana University education experts say.

In addition, researchers say the recruitment and retention of experienced teachers should be emphasized as much as seeking higher numbers of new teachers to enter the profession.

"Teacher turnover and retirement trends, when coupled with the 'highly qualified' teacher licensure requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), are growing issues of significance that education leaders and policymakers in our state must address," said Terry Spradlin, associate director for education policy at the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy (CEEP) at IU Bloomington. "In context of the NCLB, Indiana has a prime opportunity to implement enhanced policies and systemic programs to ensure every student is taught by a highly-qualified teacher."

The latest CEEP policy brief, "Emerging Trends in Teacher Recruitment and Retention in the No Child Left Behind Era," explores the factors and circumstances behind the national struggle to meet the highly qualified teacher requirement under NCLB, focusing on recruitment and retention issues for both subject-area and geographic shortages. The CEEP policy brief outlines several key recommendations to help schools improve teacher recruitment and retention efforts. To view the brief, visit

A primary goal of NCLB is to ensure that every child, regardless of race, ethnicity, class, disability or English proficiency, is taught by well-prepared, highly qualified teachers. The U.S. Department of Education has outlined qualities that a new teacher must have in order to be considered highly qualified. They must: possess at least a bachelor's degree; have full certification and licensure as defined by the State Education Agency; and demonstrate competence as defined by the State Education Agency in the subject area to be taught. Veteran teachers also must meet a list of requirements. No states were able to meet the July 1, 2006, mandate that every teacher meet the "highly qualified" requirements outlined in NCLB.

"We knew this was coming, but during the past five-to-six years, we've made do in Indiana," Spradlin said. "We're not in the dire straights other states are with these issues, but our large urban school districts and small rural school districts will face insurmountable challenges to attract high caliber teachers if the state continues with a passive policy approach in support of its school districts with recruitment and retention."

Recruitment and retention are problems in Indiana and across the United States, partially because of an aging workforce and increasing student enrollments. But the situation is exacerbated by nearly half of the new teachers leaving the profession within their first five years.

"If the strategies that the Indiana Department of Education outlines in its Highly Qualified Teacher Plan submitted to the U.S. Department of Education are implemented, and the four recommendations offered by CEEP researchers are adopted, then Indiana will be well positioned to maintain a highly skilled teacher workforce that will be accessible to every child," Spradlin said.

One of the recommendations in the report is to encourage school corporations with hard-to-staff schools to use Title II Part A funds creatively. The report promotes grow-your-own teacher scholarship programs that encourage high school students, especially minority students, to pursue a teaching profession. Another option for schools is to create differentiated career paths and compensation.

Below are three additional strategies that, according to the policy brief, are policy options for Indiana policymakers and education officials to consider:

  • Require school corporations to post teacher vacancies on a regular basis on the Professional Education Employee Referral System found on the Indiana Department of Education Web site. This requirement would provide teachers with complete and timely information about job vacancies. There is evidence that school corporations are not keeping the postings current.
  • Provide enhanced incentives for retired teachers who are not at an age of normal Social Security retirement to return to the classroom to fill vacancies in shortage areas. Teachers who fill these shortage area vacancies would receive compensation at the state average for all teachers without losing their pension benefits. The current law allows for compensation of up to $35,000, but CEEP suggests the law be changed to the state average, which was $47,255 in 2005-06.
  • Increase the appropriation of the Minority Teacher/Special Education Scholarship to finance a more attractive loan-forgiveness program for scholarship recipients who complete their teaching degree and accept a placement in a hard-to-staff school. The appropriation also should be increased to add more scholarships to recruit more minority teachers and increase the number of special education teachers fully qualified to teach in this area.

CEEP promotes and supports rigorous nonpartisan program evaluation and policy research primarily, but not exclusively, for education, human services and non-profit organizations. Its research uses both quantitative and qualitative methodologies.

To learn more about CEEP, visit