Attracting and Retaining Teachers


As was recently suggested in the NCTQ reports
(see and and has been argued by AEA, it is vital that ASD be able to not only attract, but retain highly qualified teachers. In fact, though the Superintendent claims that ASD is in full compliance with Alaska law, ASD HR admits that fully half of new hires are NOT highly qualified, while fully 30% of our teachers (maybe 1000) are not highly qualified (violations of State regulations for a number of years now.). A substantial portion (some estimate as much, again,as a third) are new teachers, and statistics show that many of these will leave the field, while ASD is spending money to train teachers that arguably should have received training before leaving their credential programs.

And while the counterpoint to these concerns may be questions of accountability (and I will address those matters separately), initiatives from AkDEED, whether extra merit pay for student success or video based credentialing, have proven unsuccessful. What can, what must be done?

As the largest district in the state I believe ASD should assume a leadership role in education in our state. Too often ASD appears to be just another lost district trying to make sense of inadequate policy statements flowing from Juneau. The time "to strike" is now. We have a bi-partisan coalition in the State Senate for the first time in years. We have a new federal delegation that appears to be headed in a similar direction, with stimulus funds soon to be available. And I believe we have as much or more educational know-how in Anchorage than Juneau. Let's be pro-active!

ASD needs to insist that TRS be placed back on the footing it enjoyed before our legislators were wined and dined into adopting an insupportable retirement scheme that has no hope of success. A major reason given by teachers again and again for pursuing a profession that can often be seen as thankless is the expectation that their retirement will be secure. That is no longer the case. Yes, it may be appropriate to look for options for those interested to be able to transfer contributions made to a restored defined benefit plan to plans that may allow them to manage their own portfolios, but such options must be secondary to restoration of our defined benefit system.

AEA has repeatedly demonstrated that teacher salaries are losing ground. However, this issue is often confusing because of the work calendar. It is long past time to put public schools on a full year calendar, whether employing quarters or trimesters. Such a calendar would provide attendance options for students, duty options for teachers, and staffing options for the administration. It could provide a basis to implement the sabbatical, a necessary aspect of a teaching professionals career that the state has simply refused to fund, and it would put what the District is already doing with respect to summer programs, on a normative footing that could yield some savings that would offset increased expenditures.

Salary concerns are also difficult to address in light of ASD's creative accounting procedures. It is high time that AEA had transparent access to ASD books. I think everyone in Anchorage is tired of being told that the budget is about to implode, only to discover that funding has magically reappeared after all the gnashing of teeth and tightening of belts. All too often, this apoplexy seems to be contemporaneous with labor negotiations which gives the appearance that strutting the stage, as opposed to seriously addressing the needs of its instructional staff. I am also concerned about the short-sightedness of our labor policy. As a state we seem to continue to make promises that we can't keep based on short term policies. Public obligations, like education, need long term consistency in funding. Yet in Alaska we are still litigating over adequate state funding, let alone creating funding mechanisms to keep adequate funding in place over the long term.

We need to stop spending money on sending administrators on Outside recruitment junkets. If we compare our salary to states which have poor educational showing it is not surprising that our results are comparable. If you want a properly trained, inspirational professional to motivate your children, you need to expect to pay for one, and frankly outsourcing or suggesting teachers are a "dime a dozen" is not an effective way to show that teachers in our community are cherished resources.....

We need to provide effective educational leadership that recognizes that the challenges our teachers face are demoralizing in their scope. From class size to behavior to language, teachers are being placed in untenable situations that would stress a master teacher, let alone a young man or woman newly turned out by UAA. Teachers face these challenges often without adequate support and, while we need to remember that we likely could hire more highly qualified teachers if the environment and remuneration were adequate, this is no excuse for not providing adequate leadership and support for those already with tenure..

Curriculum needs to be stabilized and disentangled from educational fad. Curriculum will never be effective if staff is not invested in it and qualified to use it and we can't determine if the curriculum has been effective if we have no data on whether it has been implemented appropriately. While it is important to ensure that students demonstrate minimal competencies, it is also important to ensure that instructional staff feel that they are more than baby-sitters passing out work sheets.

Perhaps one way to look at this is to suggest that if we want our teachers to excite and enlighten maybe we have to provide a supportive environment. Yes, there must always be accountability, but it is high time for us to tell the naysayers who argue "I managed without Math, so I see no reason to have to teach Math to kids" that this community, and this State don't agree.....

This communication was paid for by Marc Grober, 5610 Radcliff Dr. Anchorage, AK 99504