NSTA Express
 Main NSTA Website | Become an NSTA Member | Register for a Convention | NSTA Express Feedback | September 29, 2003


Missed Hiring Opportunities in Urban Schools

Teachers who want to teach high-demand subjects in inner-city schools often become frustrated with urban school districts' lengthy hiring processes and accept positions in better-organized, faster-hiring suburban districts, concludes a study by The New Teacher Project (TNTP), an educational consulting firm specializing in teacher recruitment issues. The four large, urban school districts surveyed by TNTP frequently made job offers as late as July or August, sometimes just days before positions had to be filled. By then, between 31 and 60 percent of potential hires had withdrawn their applications.

The study, titled Missed Opportunities: How We Keep High-Quality Teachers Out of Urban Classrooms, revealed that the urban school districts received from five to 20 times the number of applicants as positions available. Of these applicants, up to 37 percent applied to teach in high-demand subjects, including science, math, special education, and bilingual education. The study found that of the prospective hires who withdrew their applications, "almost half said they definitely or probably would have accepted an offer from the urban district if it had come earlier. Equally significant, between 37 and 69 percent of the known withdrawers were candidates for hard-to-fill positions." In addition, the report said, "applicants who withdrew from the hiring process had significantly higher undergraduate GPAs, were 40 percent more likely to have a degree in their teaching field, and were significantly more likely to have completed educational coursework than new hires."

Factors that delay the hiring process in many urban schools: retiring and resigning teachers are allowed to offer late notice of their departure—sometimes even well into the summer; union contracts require districts to consider existing teachers and transfer teachers for open positions before outside applicants are allowed to apply; and states have late deadlines to pass government budgets—46 states end their fiscal year on June 30 and have the option to extend that time—that leave districts in the lurch financially.

"The report shows that with stepped-up recruitment efforts, there are large quantities of highly-qualified teachers seeking challenging positions in urban classrooms," said Michelle Rhee, TNTP's CEO and president. "But states, districts, and unions must work collectively to restructure the hiring processes in urban school districts to ensure that highly-qualified teachers are available to the students who need them the most." 

Read a copy of the report at www.tntp.org/docs/reportfinalfixed.pdf.


Program to Bring Distinguished Scientists to Classrooms

The philanthropic NEC Foundation of America and Science Service, a nonprofit, science education advocacy organization, announced this month that they will co-sponsor a nine-month program to bring America's most distinguished scientists into middle school classrooms. As part of that program, titled NEC Extreme Science, the organizations also will award three middle-school science teachers a total of $9,000 to realize their ideal classrooms.

The first component of the program, NEC Give a Day, Make a Difference, will enlist more than 200 of the nation's brightest scientists to serve as role models to middle school students. These distinguished scientists will volunteer a portion of their day to working one-on-one with a middle school class in their local community to introduce students to the wonders of science and technology through demonstration.

Participating scientists are past recipients of the Nobel Prize, the Enrico Fermi Award, the Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award, the Charles Stark Draper Prize, the Alan T. Waterman Award, the National Medal of Science, the National Medal of Technology, the Faculty Early Career Development Program Award, and the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers. NEC Extreme Science will highlight scientists' volunteer efforts during Excellence in Science, Technology, Math, and Engineering Week in March 2004, when more than a dozen Nobel Laureates will visit middle schools in New York; Seattle; Dallas; Chicago; Princeton, NJ; and Santa Clara, CA.

"NEC Extreme Science is an outstanding fit with the focus of NEC Foundation of America, which is to invest in technology and human potential," said Sylvia Clark, executive director of the foundation. "We are delighted with the early response of this nation's most distinguished scientists and engineers to visit middle schools across the country."

The second part of the NEC Extreme Science Program, titled the NEC Perfect Classroom Competition, is open to all middle school science teachers who wish to improve learning conditions in their classroom, but who can't receive money from their school or district due to budget constraints. Eligible teachers must submit a three-minute video essay in which they describe their creative vision of a perfect classroom. Respectively, first- through third-place winners will be awarded $5,000; $3,000; and $1,000 to complete their projects.

The submission deadline is February 9, 2004. Winners will be announced in May 2004 during National Teacher Appreciation Week.

For more information, visit www.sciserv.org/necfoundation.asp.