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Spring 2003 Vol. 10. No. 3 Focus on Standardized Tests

News in brief

Report lays out plan on teacher quality, vacancies

By the Notebook on Mar 13, 2003 12:00 AM

A panel looking into Philadelphia's persistent teacher shortage, high teacher turnover, and growing percentage of uncertified teachers has recommended a broad array of new incentives to recruit and support teachers here.

The report, representing "Phase one" of the District's "Campaign for Human Capital," calls for steps ranging from reduced class size and expanded mentoring to higher salaries and special discount cards for teacher recruits.

"Experts from across the country agree that the major challenge is not recruiting new teachers, but retaining the teachers we have, too many of whom leave within three years," the report states.

High teacher turnover and a limited applicant pool force the District to hire teachers who are less than fully qualified for their posts. For the 2002-03 school year, only one-third of the 598 new teachers recruited by the District were fully certified.

The Campaign sets a higher goal for the 2003-04 school year: "The District must increase the percentage of newly hired certified teachers by 50 percent over last year."

The panel also addressed inequities in the distribution of qualified teachers. "We must stop placing the least qualified teachers in the lowest performing schools. This is a challenge that needs to be addressed collaboratively with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT)," the report says.

A key element of the Campaign's research was a survey completed by 8,100 teachers.

The report says District CEO Paul Vallas has begun to implement several of the panel's key recommendations:

  • "Reducing class size will be at the center of budget development and teacher allocation for 2003-04." Where space is a problem, an inexperienced teacher will be placed with a veteran teacher.

  • Teachers will be eligible for $1,000 in annual reimbursement for approved certification courses.

  • Teachers will receive training in instruction, classroom management, and parent communications.

  • Teacher recruitment will focus on 20 area institutions that have produced the most teachers and on historically Black urban colleges with teacher education programs.

  • The District will "roll out the red carpet for juniors and seniors" from these schools.

  • Below market mortgage rates will be offered to employees through partnerships with Philadelphia's Redevelopment Authority and area banks.

Phase two of the Campaign, addressing principals and leadership development, will make recommendations to the CEO in June, when a report on the implementation of Phase one will also be issued.

The report is available on the School District website, www.phila.k12.pa.us.

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