Districts are using teacher retention grants to staff up

Teacher retention grants and other forms of recruitment assistance are available from state and federal agencies and a wide range of other sources. Here's how K12 leaders are deploying the funds.

As superintendents and their teams grapple with staff shortages, there is help out there: teacher retention grants and other assistance are available from a range of public and private sources.

The Biden Administration is distributing nearly $370 million in grants for retention, recruitment, and career advancement through its Education Innovation and Research and Teacher and School Leader Incentive programs. Schools in North Carolina, for example, received $24 million from the latter fund to work on staff shortages.

The state’s second-largest district, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, is putting $7.7 million worth of those teacher retention grants into its Teacher Leader Pathway program over the next three years. This advanced career track offers exclusive professional development opportunities—and a chance to earn an additional $18,250 in salary—to educators with a history of high student achievement.

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Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s program is also being developed as a model to help other districts implement similar recruitment and retention initiatives, WFAE.com reported.

In Indianapolis, Perry Township Schools in will spend $6.4 million over the next three years on teacher effectiveness bonuses and stipends for master teachers. Administrators also plan to hire two more literacy coaches to support teachers working to help students who have fallen behind in reading, the Indianapolis Star reported.

“We need more innovative approaches to supporting the return and retention of outstanding, well-prepared, well-supported educators who meet the needs and reflect the diversity of their students,” said James Lane, the principal deputy assistant secretary for the federal Office of Elementary and Secondary Education  “These funds will catalyze more of these approaches in schools across the country.”

Accordingly, nonprofit K12 organizations have also been awarded federal grants to drive staffing efforts in multiple districts. The Center of Excellence for Educator Preparation and Innovation in South Carolina now has $26.7 million to help the districts in Fairfield and Georgetown counties raise student achievement through recruiting and retaining high-quality teachers.

The institute’s initiative, which is based at Vorhees University, an HBCU, will focus on improving teacher evaluation procedures, raising performance-based compensation, creating a principal collaboration network and hiring more instructional coaches for new teachers.

How states are helping

In Illinois, Quincy Public Schools will receive $630,000 over the next three years from the state’s board of education to provide bonuses to new hires, $450 stipends for special education teachers and assistance buying classroom supplies. Quincy’s new teachers can earn $750 at the end of their first year, $1,000 after the second and $1,250 after the third, Superintendent Todd Pettit told the Herald-Whig.

“We’re pleased with the collaboration we’ve had with the teachers union to be able to come up with the incentives we have,” Pettit said. “You want to be able to cast the net wide so you’re giving something to everyone and not just the new teachers and recruiting.”

Illinois’ grants can also be used by districts to help teachers with housing stipends, down-payment assistance and loan repayments and other living expenses.

New York recently awarded nearly $12 million to support two-year teacher residency programs in multiple districts. The incoming educators will gain classroom experience alongside established teacher mentors. A new state law also requires New York’s education commissioner to work with colleges and universities to guide districts in retaining and recruiting more teachers of color.

Higher ed also lends a hand

Teacher preparation programs at several universities are also receiving grants to send more new and more diverse educators into the K12 workforce. The University of Central Oklahoma College of Education and Professional Studies will use a $2.45 million American Rescue Plan Act grant to help 120 teachers complete their master’s degrees. The university’s “Accelerated Cohorts for Teacher Success” program helps teachers pay for tuition, fees, textbooks, background checks and graduation fees.

Kansas State University’s College of Education has received a $3.9 million federal grant from the Supporting Effective Educator Development program to help six school districts in Kansas and Nebraska hire more highly effective teachers of color to serve culturally and linguistically diverse students.

Kansas State’s Project RAÍCES—Spanish for “roots”—will not only help preservice teacher candidates complete their degrees, it is also providing the six districts with professional development that emphasizes “biography-driven instruction.” This framework trains teachers to leverage students’ sociocultural, linguistic, cognitive and academic assets.

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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