Op-Ed — School Choice: Grappling With The Parameters Of Education Reform

Renzulli AcademyThe majority of the brightest and best students at the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut want to teach in high-need schools and focus their clinical experiences and academic work toward that goal. Yet instead of being actively recruited by urban districts, they must wait in the back of the hiring line.

Each April, high-achieving districts come ready to interview and offer contracts. Priority schools attend, but are not able to offer contracts. In high-performing districts, budgets are set early, so leaders can plan. In our most challenging districts, however, budgets get set late and in-district transfers must take place before new teachers are hired. Then, in Bridgeport, Hartford and New Haven, which have agreements with Teach for America, TFA students must be hired first.

So imagine. You’re a fully certified new teacher, holding a boatload of loans because you’ve gone the extra year to be the most qualified. A high-performing district offers a contract in April or May. You want to work in a high-need school, but won’t know until late August if there’s an opening. What would you do? I can tell you what my students who want to work in urban areas do. They go out of state to Boston and New York City, where they are heavily sought after and know they’ll have a job.

We must provide Connecticut’s priority schools with a solid budget in early spring, so they can recruit early. Next, we must employ sound hiring practices with teachers, parents and the principal engaged in the selection. Finally, we must make it a level playing field, where the most qualified candidates get hired first.

Dr. Richard Schwab is a Neag alumnus and dean emeritus in the Neag School of Education. He currently serves as a faculty member with the Department of Education Leadership.

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