How ESSA is Helping One School District Recruit Great Teachers

By NEA Today

The single most important factor for student learning is a great teacher, but recruiting and retaining great teachers has been a major challenge, especially for high-needs schools where teacher burnout and turnover is rampant. The Clark County Education Association (CCEA), however, seems to have discovered a solution to the problem with a National Board Certification Program and new funding opportunities from the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

“I think we have this pretty well figured out,” says Betsy Giles.

In her role as director of National Board Certification for CCEA, Giles is focused on helping more educators in the Las Vegas area reach the gold teaching standard of National Board Certification and to funnel those teachers to the district’s highest need schools.

In partnership with Clark County School District, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, CCEA launched the National Board Certification Program to select, recruit and retain the highest quality teachers possible. The new program provides participants with leadership training and mentoring while embedding professional development in high needs schools to improve instruction, professional practice and student outcomes. Overarching all of these goals is to keep the teachers who complete the program teaching at the same high needs schools, ending the cycle of burnout and turnover.

How Did They Do It?

“First, we got ourselves on all the local and state ESSA funding committees so we could align our work with district and state initiatives,” Giles says.

That’s how they found out about the state equity plan. As part of ESSA, the Department of Education requires each state to submit their plans for getting highly effective teachers in high-needs schools. CCEA believes the best way to do that is with NCBT educators, so Giles and her colleagues created a demographic map of southern Nevada to determine where NBCT educators were teaching.

“Sure enough, they weren’t in the high needs schools,” she said. “They were primarily in the affluent suburban schools, so we created the National Board Professional Development School Program that targeted our highest needs schools, which can be found throughout southern Nevada. Of out district’s 350 schools, more than 250 are high needs schools.”

Title II of ESSA is dedicated to the recruitment, preparation, and training of high quality educators and provides $2.5 billion annually to states and districts for professional learning.

“We used the flexibility of these funds to invest in activities grounded in a coherent professional continuum,” says Giles. “Title I funds are restrictive, but Title II funds are pretty darn flexible and that is where the funding for this NBCT program is coming from.”

During the 2015-2016 school year, first year of the program, there were 10 schools. This academic year the number has jumped to 32 schools with 600 educator candidates. CCEA was able to secure a grant from the Nevada Department of Education to pay for one component of the certification process for each candidate.

“It shows how well we are working together,” Giles says. “I recommend that all affiliates gather the power players together and collaborate. We built bridges and are in close alliance with bipartisan politicians. That’s how we got this done.”

How is it Working?

CCEA collaborated with a researcher from the College of Education at the University of Nevada to survey program participants and she found an overwhelmingly positive response.

Of those surveyed, 95 percent reported significant increase in job satisfaction from the program, particularly in terms of improved skills in reflection and planning, and deeper understanding of content area knowledge.

A full 98 percent of participants agreed that the program improved collaboration, collegiality, and a culture of high expectations for student learning.

Cultural competency also increased with 82 percent of the participants reporting that the NBPDS program helped them better understand their students’ cultural differences and make diversity a means for enriching the culture of their classroom learning community; and 70 percent who found that the program improved their ability to recognize diversity in the classroom and make more effective use of it in their teaching.

As states and local districts continue to implement ESSA, much can be learned from the CCEA NBPDS program and its essential that they find similar ways to address the needs of students in all communities.

“It matters how much money is available to our schools, but that’s just the beginning of the conversation. What matters just as much is how that money is spent to support students,” says NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia. “ESSA provides school districts the chance to work with parents and educators to use available resources in new ways so every student has a chance to succeed.”

Originally published in NEA Today, republished with permission of the National Education Association

teacher helping student at desk