What brings excellent teachers in droves to apply for jobs in hard-to-staff schools? Project L.I.F.T. in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District started by offering a complete Opportunity Culture package of career advancement roles that let great teachers stay in the classroom, help more students, and collaborate with and lead peers. These roles provide significantly higher pay and offer on-the-job development to all teachers–within regular school budgets. With that package on offer, four key recruitment steps got teachers’ attention.
And so, in its second year of Opportunity Culture implementation in four schools, Project L.I.F.T. saw a strong uptick in both the quantity–more than 800 applications for 27 spots–and quality of applicants for teaching roles at schools that previously saw many positions go unfilled.
Dan Swartz, L.I.F.T.’s human capital strategies specialist, and L.I.F.T. Superintendent Denise Watts explain how they got there in a new vignette from Public Impact, Recruiting in an Opportunity Culture: Lessons Learned, with an accompanying video of principals and district leaders sharing how an Opportunity Culture attracts great teachers.
- First, Swartz says, start early—by March, if not earlier, before the best teachers find jobs elsewhere.
- Second, communicate clearly about the benefits—A complete package of sustainable career advancement opportunities is rare in education, and teachers won’t expect it. Districts must communicate the whole picture of opportunities, support, and pay.
- Third, ask teachers to help spread the word. Even if a district is just in the planning stages for its Opportunity Culture offerings, it will have design teams at each school that select and adapt the job models that fit their school best. Those teams include teachers, who will be well-versed in the benefits of the new roles. As word spreads, great teachers attract more great teachers.
“Teachers can sell people on the job much better than I can or a principal can,” Watts says. “[Swartz] really leveraged teachers to be a mechanism to entice other teachers.”
Teachers can explain new job models such as Multi-Classroom Leadership, Time Swaps, and Elementary Specialization. With these models, excellent teachers are accountable for every student’s learning, and they and their teams earn more for reaching more students. In Charlotte-Mecklenburg, multi-classroom leaders are earning pay supplements of up to $23,000—50 percent more than the average teacher salary in North Carolina—and other advanced roles offer supplements of up to $9,800. Good, solid teachers work side by side with outstanding peers, who can set a high standard for learning and help whole teams excel.
An added bonus: At the end of a rigorous screening process, L.I.F.T. ended up with more great teacher candidates than positions, creating a pipeline of teachers willing to take a non-Opportunity Culture job just to get their foot in the door for future openings.
- Fourth, repeat your message: Use multiple means to advertise your roles, including social media, webinars, videos, and partner organizations, and invest plenty of leadership time to recruit within the district, across the state, and throughout the U.S.
Charlotte was not the only district to see strong recruitment: Pilot schools in Nashville also received about 30 applications for every open Opportunity Culture position in the first year of recruiting. Opportunity Culture schools in their second year that did not recruit as early and communicate the whole package did not get the same boost.
When recruiting early and communicating well, schools may find these higher-paying models especially effective for recruiting excellent teachers and teams in hard-to-staff schools and positions, such as STEM teaching.
“If you advertise it the right way and you market it the right way for your school district, you’re going to get great candidates from all over the country that will be interested in it,” says Janette McIver, Thomasboro Academy principal, in the accompanying video. “The people who are in schools and are doing the rock-star jobs are the people who are also looking to do something more, all the time—they always want to do more, and so they’re seeking out opportunities like this.”