Tackling Ohio’s toughest education challenges: Create an incentive program to attract and develop high-performing teachers

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Editor’s Note: As Ohioans prepare to elect a new governor this November, and as state leaders look to build upon past education successes, we at the Fordham Institute are developing a set of policy proposals that we believe can lead to increased achievement and greater opportunities for Ohio students. This is the seventh in our series, under the umbrella of supporting great educators. You can access all of the entries in the series to date here.

Proposal: Establish a competitive grant program that would provide funds to implement human-capital initiatives aimed at attracting and/or developing classroom talent. These grants could be used to support innovative compensation strategies, such as differential pay structures, signing or performance bonuses, or assistance with paying off student loans. They could also be used to implement mentoring, evaluation, retention, and development programs that ensure great teachers remain in classrooms and take on instructional leadership roles. The grants should be open to districts, charter and STEM schools, as well as to consortia of educational institutions.

Background: Attracting talented individuals to the teaching profession remains key to developing a high-performing K–12 system. But in an increasingly competitive job market, schools have had trouble drawing top talent into their classrooms. A 2010 McKinsey report found that just 23 percent of U.S. teachers came from the top third of their college graduating class, with only 14 percent of new teachers in high-poverty schools coming from that tier. Although we don’t have comparable statistics for Ohio, data and news reports suggest that a great many of the state’s schools struggle to fill teaching positions, especially in hard-to-staff subjects. A recent analysis, for example, indicates an oversupply of recent graduates in early education and ELA, alongside a shortage of those prepared to teach in the STEM fields. Schools in remote rural communities and inner cities also face challenges attracting top-notch talent into their classrooms. Ohio has undertaken efforts to bolster the teacher pipeline, including the introduction of Teach For America, a national nonprofit that recruits high-performing college graduates. But Ohio schools continue to face challenges recruiting and retaining the best and the brightest young people to work in education.

Proposal rationale: Ohio schools compete with other states and professions to draw talented, motivated individuals into their classrooms. A competitive grant program would encourage districts and schools to pursue new ways to do this.

Cost: The state should allocate $30 million to this program over two fiscal years, $10 million for the first year and $20 million for the second year. This relatively modest amount would support schools seeking to experiment or pilot human-capital initiatives, with the aim of full implementation using general operating funds after grants expire. A portion of state funding should be set aside to ensure rigorous evaluation of the grant-funded initiatives.

Resources: For an analysis on the college performance of U.S. teachers, see the 2010 McKinsey and Company report Closing the Talent Gap: Attracting and Retaining Top-Third Graduates to Careers in Teaching by Brian Auguste and colleagues. For data on Ohio’s educator workforce, see the 2013 Ohio Research Center report Teacher Supply and Demand in Ohio by Jay Zagorsky and colleagues. For an overview of strategies for teacher recruitment and retention, see the 2016 Center for American Progress report To Attract Great Teachers, School Districts Must Improve Their Human Capital Systems by Annette Konoske-Graf and colleagues. And for examples of innovative staffing models, see Public Impact’s website “Opportunity Culture.”