Des Moines, Iowa — Higher salaries and other financial incentives are key in recruiting good teachers, but the nation's governors were told Sunday that more can be done to prevent teachers from leaving the classroom. Mentoring, professional development, finding ways to boost confidence and school-day schedule changes to provide more contact with colleagues are just as critical.
"Money is a piece of the puzzle," said Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, who led the session on recruiting, rewarding and retaining teachers.
"But I think over and over again today, we heard the idea, and problems with, the feeling of isolation come up that so many teachers feel," Sebelius said.
For more than a decade, lawmakers and educators in many states have searched for ways to keep their most talented teachers, recruit replacements for retiring teachers and to fill vacancies in rural and urban districts, especially in science and math.
As many as 20 percent of new teachers quit after their first year, and nearly twice that many change professions within three years, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Some states, such as Texas and California, have responded with signing bonuses, forgiving student loans or offering discounted housing to teachers willing to work in troubled inner-city districts or remote, rural schools.
Lawmakers in states such as Iowa and North Dakota have set aside money in recent years specifically to boost salaries.
And other states are experimenting with elaborate advertising campaigns to boost hiring or programs to draw non-teachers into the classroom.
Vermont Gov. Jim Douglas, a Republican, said a town in his state hit by job losses is taking part in a pilot program to speed certification, an effort to make teaching more appealing to people changing careers.
Brent Potts, a high school science teacher and the 2005 Kansas Teacher of the Year, told the governors that mentoring from skilled, veteran teachers early in his career was the single biggest factor in his own success.