Lack of support, low pay, minimal flexibility, burnout, work/life imbalance, better career opportunities – there are a lot of reasons why teachers and IT professionals are leaving education. According to a March 2022 survey by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), within the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), 44 percent of U.S. public schools reported full- or part-time teaching openings. And, in the majority of cases, the pandemic was to blame: of public schools with at least one reported vacancy, 61 percent identified COVID-19 as the reason for the vacancies.
For the first time in 2022, CoSN’s Driving K-12 Innovation Advisory Board – made up of more than 100 global members – voted Attracting & Retaining Educators and IT Professionals as a top Hurdle (obstacle) that is hindering teaching and learning innovation at schools this year.
The Driving K-12 Innovation initiative defines Attracting & Retaining Educators and IT Professionals as:
Outdated hiring practices and keeping school staff are significant problems for school systems and countries. Many educators and IT staff are exhausted. Contributing factors for educators include the absence of serious professional development opportunities, limited growth paths, and low salaries. For IT professionals, there are the added stressors like limited IT leadership and staff support, longer hours, and minimal IT leadership preparation programs — in addition to low pay compared with private companies who can offer higher salaries, flexible work schedules, and more time off.
With 35% of Ad Board members voting this topic as important, Attracting & Retaining Educators and IT Professionals were discussed in depth in the 2022 Driving K-12 Innovation Hurdles + Accelerators Report. (Download for free here.)
Read on for tips and recommendations on supporting and engaging teachers and IT staff members, both from the report and exclusive additional content:
Create a positive organizational culture
“I think the concentration needs to turn to how to build and sustain a strong, healthy workplace environment for our teachers (with lots of mental health focus) in order to retain those currently in the profession. They need to feel fully supported to do their professional tasks educating today’s learners. Administrators are also feeling the brunt of the pandemic and the great division in our communities.” Ken Zimmerman (Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13, Pennsylvania, U.S.).
Advocate for appropriate compensation
Oftentimes, in IT especially, employees who work at private companies can make much more than those working in public education systems. In order to hire top talent and retain skilled staff members, ensure that they are fairly compensated for their abilities.
Have a technology plan
“One of the main efforts that every school should make is to have a technology plan. That would help IT professionals a lot in understanding what their role is and what the budget is in the implementation of the plan. Additionally, it will provide information to educators about the ecosystems that are planned for the school.” Jackson Vega (Colegio F.D Roosevelt – American School of Lima, Peru).
Support professional development opportunities
Upskilling allows both educators and IT professionals the chance to learn, grow, and connect with others in the field. Giving education employees these regular opportunities to improve their craft will also boost their confidence and help them to set and achieve goals. (Psst, everyone – including the students – benefit!)
Give staff more time and support
“With the rapid pace of change, it’s important to remember our staff and students may need additional time or support to reach the goals we set. We cannot forget the human element as we drive innovation in 2022 and beyond.” Freddie Cox (Knox County School District, Tennessee, U.S.).
Consider a flexible work schedule
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we can largely work from anywhere. To retain top IT staff members, think about whether a more flexible, remote work schedule can be considered.
Raise educators’ voices
“Education in a pandemic has proven to be particularly challenging for teachers, who are finding themselves with the most knowledge and understanding of what kids and families need, but with the least input and control. More than ever, now is the time to elevate the voices of teachers. Likewise, families — especially of students with unique learning needs who receive services at school and experienced severe disruption during school building closures — should also be tapped for input on how those experiences can inform innovation. Solutions for these students will often lead to more creative, flexible models for all learners.” (Cynthia Curry, CAST, Massachusetts, U.S.)
Explore professional areas of interest
“We allow them to explore areas of interest in the tech sector and engage with those types of projects during their day. We also actively discuss their growth trajectory, providing internal pathways when possible and encouraging them to explore other positions if they better meet their career goals. We want our district to develop a reputation where people we hired speak well of their experience and grow professionally due to being here.” David Quinn (Mendon-Upton Regional School District, Massachusetts, U.S.).
Prioritize the SEL of teachers while capitalizing on innovation
“The pandemic has brought to light both the need to address the social and emotional well-being of students and teachers, and the need to capitalize on this surge of technology and disruption to perpetuate innovation. This is challenging because, on some level, these seem to be opposing concepts — educators and students are so exhausted and overwhelmed by the disruption that moving ‘back to normal’ can be the most tempting and assuring path. However, we can (and must) address both by continuing to evolve what teaching and learning looks like through policy interventions to better support and retain teachers, meaningful professional development to help teachers use their new skills and tools to support students’ well-being and learning, and improved infrastructure to help educators better understand where their students are and what they need.” Liz Miller Lee (ISTE, Oregon, U.S.).
Consider a growth path for staff
“In the end, we may not be able to retain every IT staff person we hire. We do, however, need some fundamental changes to occur to help extend the length of time we can keep IT staff. I think one of the biggest changes small school systems can make is to consider a professional growth path for staff.” Vince Humes (Northwest Tri-County Intermediate Unit, Pennsylvania, U.S.).
Visit the Driving K-12 Innovation webpage to read the 2022 reports, get free resources to help you drive innovation, and more.
Author: Stephanie King
Published on: Oct 18th, 2022
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