It is clear that the demand for great teachers for Tennessee charter schools will continue to grow at a fast pace. To meet the critical need of having an outstanding teacher for every public school child enrolled in a Tennessee charter school, we must gear up efforts now.
The current supply of teachers from Teach for America Memphis and Nashville and other Teach for America regions, while a strong pipeline, will not be sufficient. Charter schools are growing in other cities around the country. All these places are competing for solid talent that comes from Teach for America. In addition, not all Corps members remain as teachers after their initial commitment or a few years longer. Tennessee charter schools need to continue to recruit TFAers, but would be wise to broaden their recruitment base.
At the Tennessee Charter School Incubator, we are of the opinion that Tennessee charters do not need to reinvent the wheel to meet their teaching needs. It’s more a question of connecting great resources that are already out there rather than creating new ones. To date, some things we have been working on include:
College student recruitment – It is important to get more individuals interested in being part of the education reform movement while still in college. Tangible examples of this include semester or summer fellowships and internships in charter schools or charter related support organizations. These are both paid and unpaid opportunities during a semester or over the summer.
Alternate pipelines – A number of mid-career professionals have demonstrated proven leadership traits and share many of the same mission-alignment elements with which charter schools operate. Tangible examples of this include a partnership the Incubator has forged with Tennessee Troops to Teachers to help connect charter school teaching opportunities to those making a transition from the Armed Forces. There are also opportunities with Teach TN, which through its Governor’s Fellowship program can help non-education working professionals get up to speed with the necessary certifications and teaching licenses for high-need subject areas. Other work is being done in this area.
Better PR – Perhaps an odd recruitment strategy to mention, but many high-quality teachers who currently teach in private schools and traditional public schools would likely thrive in a high-performing public charter school environment. Many charter schools in Tennessee place great emphasis on having a great school culture. This involves supporting meaningful professional development for teachers, operating according to a supportive team mentality, giving greater autonomy to teachers, and often paying higher salaries to teachers than what they would receive in comparable district schools.
In the past, charter schools have been labeled as anti-teacher. This could not be farther from the truth. Rather, charter schools are laser-focused on having great teachers because they know it is the single greatest variable for student success, and thus work very diligently to support their teachers in an affirming and collaborative environment.
Dispelling the myths about what it is like to teach in a charter school is part of our challenge going forward, in addition to diversifying traditional recruitment methods and sources for Tennessee charter schools.