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Addressing Teacher Shortages Through Alternative Routes to Licensure

Recruiting and training mid-career professionals to become teachers

Many states and districts are facing unprecedented teacher shortages. As a result, many have implemented or are expanding existing programs that offer alternative routes to licensure or certification for those seeking to become teachers from another career. 

The Clark County School District (CCSD) in Nevada has designed an Alternative Routes to Licensure (ARL) Program to address its teacher shortages, enabling career-changing candidates to begin teaching in as little as two months through high-quality, pre-service professional development, as well as in-service support during their first year of hire. This combination of pre-service training and in-service support has resulted in a higher teacher retention rate than all other subgroups of new CCSD teachers. In this webcast, a Clark County administrator discussed the details of the program. 

PATRICK MACKELVIE

National Manager, K12

Cornerstone OnDemand 

As a global leader in unified talent management software, Cornerstone is committed to the promotion of innovative talent practice worldwide. It’s my team’s responsibility to do so in K12, so we get the privilege of interfacing with educators who are engaged in this innovative work across the country.

When it comes to specifically recruiting and onboarding, there are few that rival the innovation, creativity and excellence of the Clark County School District.

It’s my pleasure to introduce my friend Jennifer Varrato. She is the director of employee onboarding and development at Clark County School District and one of the driving forces behind this work to address what are well-publicized challenges not only in southern Nevada, but across the country.

JENNIFER VARRATO

Director, Human Resources Unit

Employee Onboarding and Development

Clark County School District (Nev. 

Teacher shortages are a problem we are acutely aware of here in Clark County School District, and one that many districts are dealing with nationwide. This school year we started with approximately 2,500 vacancies. That was pretty daunting—probably the largest number of vacancies that we’ve ever had to fill. As we are looking at our projections for next year, it looks like it’s going to be 2,900 vacancies.

We have looked at how we can proactively address this—not only how we develop this pipeline, but then how we go about retaining these teachers that we have diligently tried to recruit and train.

Our recruitment team has done a lot of analytics on where we are getting the most traffic and which advertisements or campaigns have been most effective 

 in getting people onto our website, as well as studying where they are going on our website. We also analyze the people who complete the application, we’re trying to see what they have in common to see if that will help us make decisions about where to spend our recruiting dollars.

Our program is what we call a “fast start.” We don’t want to call it a “fast track” because some people think of fast-track as, “Oh, they don’t have to do the things that other teachers have to do.” But they do. They get a fast start in terms of being able to get into the school district much more quickly, and obtain a full salary and benefits while they are completing the rest of their requirements.

The bulk of our new people are career changers. These are people who have bachelor’s degrees in other areas and either have always thought about becoming a teacher, or maybe something happened in their career and this is just an opportune time for them.

What’s wonderful is that these are people who have talents in other areas, yet they are drawn to teaching, and they have a passion for working with students. Their real-life experiences captivate our students. For example, we have a science teacher who is a former volcanologist, and students love hearing about how he used to climb volcanoes in his former career. And he’d give real specific examples of the things he used to do in his day-to-day life. That helps the students understand why they are learning what they are learning, and then think about that practical application in their day-to-day life.

In regards to professional development, our ARL teachers are required to have field experience, which is in lieu of student teaching. They do 15 full days in the classroom with a mentor teacher who scaffolds them in their experience. And then once they are hired, they are required to stay with us in their first contracted year of teaching and complete additional professional development.

We have analyzed our data in terms of looking at where our brand new teachers fall off. Across the board we see that the reason teachers leave—other than moving out of state, or because their spouse got a different job, or there’s a family medical emergency—is usually because they struggle with classroom management. So we rethought what we were doing in our pre-service training for our alternative route to licensure (ARL) program, and we identified high-leverage skills that are connected to first-year performance.

They also are paired with a master teacher based on whether they are at the elementary, secondary or special education levels. They will go into the teacher’s classroom to observe classes. That teacher will show them everything in terms of room arrangement, bulletin boards, lesson planning and other practical skills.

When we get to the point of them being hired, then our focus is on retention. For every teacher who doesn’t leave, that means one classroom that doesn’t have to be filled next year. We want to be able to retain all of our good teachers.

Every first-year teacher is also assigned a site-based mentor at their school. That mentor will work with them year-round on everything they might have questions about. This is important because each school is unique and the things that are required of each teacher are unique—the way they plan, their PLC’s, grading, lesson planning and so on. So that mentor has to be part of that effort to help that teacher on a day-to-day basis.

Professional development is also an important component, so four times a year we offer what we call New Teacher Symposiums, and teachers pick and choose the areas they want to attend. We also have what’s called Education Meetups. These are held in a large venue with roundtables set up. Anybody from first-year teachers to experienced teachers can have their own table to share an idea, and people will walk through the room and get ideas from all of the tables. This has been a great, informal way of getting professional development, and teachers just love the format. 

We have been very successful with this program, and we have a strong outlook for the future in terms of trying to put a dent in that number looming ahead of us—the 2,900 vacancies we anticipate next year. We are going to keep chipping away as a team to try to make sure we reduce that number as much as possible before the first day of school.

To watch this web seminar in its entirety, please visit: www.districtadministration.com/ws101117