Study: Barriers hinder efforts to get best teachers in tough schools

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A new study finds Chicago has succeeded in getting more teachers to earn National Board certification, but built-in obstacles “could derail future efforts” to hire and retain those master teachers in the neediest schools.

To get a handle on how to get and keep the best teachers at hard-to-staff schools, researchers Barnett Berry and Tammy King of the Southeast Center for Teaching Quality in Chapel Hill, N. C., examined the whereabouts and experiences of nationally certified teachers in four urban districts: Chicago, Charlotte, Los Angeles and Miami.

“The four districts have something going on in terms of growing National Board-certified teachers, but no district has put all the pieces together,” Berry says.

In Chicago, Berry and King found four barriers that could hamper future efforts to hire and keep nationally certified teachers at hard-to-staff schools:

Few principals and teachers are familiar with National Board certification and the potential for nationally certified teachers to play a positive role in turning around poorly performing schools.

Schools that employ National Board certified teachers have not figured out how to spread master teachers’ knowledge and expertise to other faculty, a necessary step toward raising teacher quality and school improvement.

Candidate support groups in Chicago have different philosophies about candidate recruitment. The district embraces the idea of getting as many teachers as possible to earn national certification. The teachers union, on the other hand, favors careful selection of candidates—only 25 a year—with an eye on how they would be deployed. The opposing approaches do not work well together, according to the study.

Finally, the study’s authors say an initiative to create 100 new schools, some of which are charters that are allowed to hire uncertified teachers, sends a message that is at odds with the district’s push for more nationally certified teachers.