Schools Try To Recruit New Teachers

Monday, July 3rd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jonathan Hunter started his teaching job four years ago in high demand. He was young, trained to teach bilingual students and wanted to work in an urban district. For him, it could have all been about money.

``They offer the bonuses and the health club memberships and the higher salaries,'' Hunter, a Philadelphia high school English teacher, said Sunday at the annual convention of the American Federation of Teachers.

Instead of the bidding-for-teachers trend driven by record shortages, Hunter said, recruiters ``really need to offer more support from the administration and better resources.''

``Or maybe there just needs to be some good P.R. for the profession,'' Hunter, 28, added.

U.S. school systems are looking to hire 2.2 million new teachers in the next 10 years.

Alaska is offering them gym memberships and moving expenses. California is raising their pay by about $7,000. Massachusetts wants to promise them even better pensions than their predecessors.

States and localities are fighting mass retirements, stagnant salaries and competition from more lucrative fields, but veteran educators worry that beyond the costly new carrots, little thought is given how to keep beginning teachers in the classroom.

``We're losing almost as many as we get,'' said Carnell Washington, who trains student teachers at a high school in East Baton Rouge, La. ``The young teachers today are not like your more seasoned teachers. They are constantly being recruited by industries, by other agencies or by other systems that offer more money. They need more reasons to stay.''

Officials of the American Federation of Teachers say a new plan up for a vote at the convention this week would increase requirements for teacher trainees and ``professionalize'' the job for thousands of young candidates turned off by lack of pay and respect.

``You can have a hiring bonus, but it doesn't get at the root of the problem,'' said Celia Lose, a spokeswoman for the 1-million-member union. ``It's not enough to keep people in such a demanding profession.''

The teacher quality plan — which includes mandatory testing for teaching candidates and new hires — would draw quality people who are committed and deserving of higher pay, Lose said. Some teachers worry about the high stakes attached to the proposal, but Lose expects members to approve it.

The AFT and the larger National Education Association, holding similar votes in Chicago, meet annually to decide what policies members will follow in class and at the bargaining table.

Twenty percent of teachers will quit before the end of a third year of teaching, Education Department figures show. The newest teachers tend to be paid less and assigned to classrooms that veterans pass over.

Hunter said recruits are wary of school district politics, classroom discipline or lower pay — especially in the neediest areas. ``They'd rather be on a waiting list as a substitute in the suburbs, than for a full-time position in the inner cities.''

New teachers have much to offer, their older colleagues say. They might relate better to students because they're familiar with fashion, lingo and issues. They are more technologically savvy, acquainted with the latest education research or more willing to try new things.

Districts also must consider what new teachers don't have, veterans said. When Washington trained for the profession 28 years ago, he spent an entire semester student teaching. New recruits, he said, spend about six weeks in a class — with him or some other mentor.

``We're not giving them a full classroom perspective,'' he said.

Washington, who is executive vice president of the AFT's East Baton Rouge unit, said unions as well as districts have a role in cultivating beginners: ``If we are going to recruit and attract new teachers, we need to give young teachers more leadership roles.''