Skip to main content

Where they market schools like Coca-Cola

America today, Britain tomorrow. Jill Parkin looks at some US recruiting ideas

Education is a state thing in the United States. It comes in more than 50 varieties - as do its problems and solutions. Like us, they have a teacher shortage, but unlike us they don't wait for a Secretary of State to devise tentative one-size-might-just-fit-all remedies.

The problems are familiar and the drop-out rate is high, especially among the very young and very bright who can get better salaries elsewhere. New teachers are paid around 72 per cent of fellow graduates' starting salaries. Shortages are worst in inner-city and rural areas - especially in maths and science.

They too have fast-track, and their on-the-job training schemes sound much like our graduate teacher programme. They've also recruited from abroad - from Mexico to fill gaps in the bilingual teaching pool needed for the Hispanic population.

But there is a difference. Travellers on the London Underground will soon see posters aimed at reducing the capital's shortages. It's a small step in the American direction.

Across the States, they market teaching posts like Coca-Cola. From junior high school children to retired business execs, everyone - except perhaps Michael Jackson - is invited to try lip-smackin' teaching. Children as young as 13 and 14 are targeted.

Aggressive recruitment is pulling in those who dropped out, those who've taken a break, those who wonder if teaching might be better than what they already do, and those still at school. It could happen here.

Extra cash... In New York, they've been paying teachers who will take on high-need schools an extra 15 per cent. In shortage subjects, some states will pay off students' loans.

Heavenly help... In Philiadelphia, heads asked clergy to appeal to their congregations to consider teaching. Many states have issued emergency teaching credentials to those who have led church groups.

Caught on the web... Foreign candidates are interviewed via video-conferencing in several states, including California and New York. It streamlines selections and grabs good candidates before anyone else gets a look-in.

Golden hellos... Even these are bigger than ours. In Massachusetts, they've paid signing-on bonuses of $20,000 over four years to exceptional new teachers. In some states, such as Virginia, "life experience" credits are used to start you higher up the scale if you come to a high-need school.

Grey grants... Some states give their teaching veterans an annual bonus for each year served. And teachers who have recently retired are sometimesre-hired. In Maryland and South Carolina they have a scheme that allows teachers to draw salaries and pensions. Of course, that would take a bit of tax-fixing to make it effective here.

Bringing down thebarriers... Most states now recognise each other's credential systems, allowing teachers to move across state lines without having to shoot the sheriff first.

Stop the jitterers from jumping... New teacher drop-out is very high in the US, so some states now offer their trainees much more time in class with experienced teachers.

Hi, Mom!... To stop post-baby drop-out, in Georgia there's not only childcare available but CCTV in some schools - so that teachers can check up on the nursery from the staffroom.

All I want is a roof somewhere... In high-cost housing areas, there are subsidies including low-interest home loans, moving expenses and low-cost rentals. In West Tallahatchee, there are special teacher duplexes: they're cheaper - and handy for sharing those classroom strategies. In Baltimore, teachers have been offered home-buying grants, higher starting salaries and relocation expenses. Some teachers' apartments in San Francisco and Santa Clara have been rented out for 50 per cent below market value, thanks to a building programme backed by the computer industry.

And when you crack up... If you're lucky you could be working in an area that pays teachers' health insurance.

Poached teachers... Affluent states offer teaching practice to students in neighbouring areas. If they impress, they are invited to stay on after graduation. Many Montana students have been poached in this way for Nevada, Oregon and Washington. In Connecticut, they just increased the salaries.

Now there's a thought - perhaps they could announce that on the Tube.

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you