In Western Massachusetts, Schools Unite To Tackle Teacher Shortages

For the last eight years, Massachusetts has earned the reputation for having the best public schools in the nation. But despite the high bar for education quality, teacher shortages in high need schools across the state—driven by expanding student enrollment, retiring Baby Boomers, and high new teacher attrition—threaten Massachusetts schools’ ability to deliver the education all children deserve.

This challenge is especially acute in the western half of the Commonwealth. This year, for example, Holyoke Public Schools estimates it will need to hire up to a third of its entire teaching workforce for the 2016-2017 school year. Ensuring all students receive the world-class education Massachusetts is known for requires innovative strategies to attract and retain top teachers.

That’s why the Springfield Empowerment Zone, Holyoke Public Schools, UP Education Network, and several charter schools throughout the region have banded together—in partnership with TNTP and the Massachusetts Department of Secondary and Elementary Education—to form Teach Western Mass, a collaborative campaign to highlight the region’s opportunities for exceptional teachers. 

In a time of competition between district and charter schools for teaching talent, this partnership is a fresh approach to a decade-long problem. Instead of jockeying for top teaching candidates, participating schools are working together to attract, select, develop, and keep them.

Why recruit together when each school’s individual needs are different? For one, it allows partner school systems to make the most of limited recruitment budgets. By coordinating a shared campaign with internet job postings, university and community outreach, social media, and in-person and virtual recruitment events to connect directly with prospective candidates, each partner school system has access to more candidates than they would on their own.

They are also learning from each other. Partner schools proactively share staffing best practices, tools, and resources to fill high-need positions. Representatives from each partner school system meet weekly to discuss and support recruitment events, and reflect on how to overcome hiring challenges.

This collaborative work starts with a common vision for the great teachers they’re looking for: teachers who believe all students—regardless of where they live or how much their parents earn—have the right to a great education and a bright future. All partner schools are looking to recruit and retain teachers who are ready to enter a learning community where colleagues test new approaches to instruction and learn from one another in order to better prepare students for college and/or careers. They’re looking for teachers who welcome opportunities to practice and receive feedback on core instructional skills.

To attract these types of candidates, partner schools are committed to creating environments that value educators and provide them with the autonomy to create the classrooms their students need. Teachers in the region will play a critical role in the evolution of schools and will be provided with opportunities for growth in their practice and in their careers. For example, new master educator roles in Springfield and Holyoke will give high-performing teachers a chance to earn substantially more in salary and take on leadership roles without leaving the classroom.

After launching this spring, our partnership’s immediate priority is to bring high-quality, diverse teachers into the highest-need schools in Holyoke and Springfield. Ultimately, the campaign’s goal is to recruit more than 250 top teachers to serve more than 20,000 students in the Western Massachusetts region.

As a team, we’re eager to explore how the partnership can reach beyond recruitment in the years to come. How can we work collaboratively throughout the region to open up new pathways into the teaching profession for talented candidates; equip new teachers with the training and coaching they need to get off to a fast start and excel over time; and better retain high-performers with meaningful leadership opportunities?

Today, Teach Western Mass is just getting started. And although we have a long way to go to make the region a destination of choice for educators, we’re confident that a united approach, rather than a divided one, is the way to get there. By banding competing districts and schools together, we hope to share resources, ideas, and people power to staff Western Massachusetts’ schools with the caliber of educators students need and deserve.

Please find more information about Teach Western Mass here.

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, stands in front of her students while introducing them to the captivating world of science

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, introduces her students to the captivating world of science.

About TNTP

TNTP is the nation’s leading research, policy, and consulting organization dedicated to transforming America’s public education system, so that every generation thrives.

Today, we work side-by-side with educators, system leaders, and communities across 39 states and over 6,000 districts nationwide to reach ambitious goals for student success.

Yet the possibilities we imagine push far beyond the walls of school and the education field alone. We are catalyzing a movement across sectors to create multiple pathways for young people to achieve academic, economic, and social mobility.

Learn More About TNTP