Baltimore Schools mirror the rest of the nation in a shortage of qualified and available teachers. The most recent recruitment attempt involves a “grow-your-own” method that is slowly cropping up around the country. The Baltimore Country district of Baltimore Schools awarded 3 college scholarships this year for students to pursue education degrees. The scholarship recipients will be trained and mentored in Baltimore Schools, and will agree to teach in the district upon graduation.
The Baltimore Schools’ scholarship program was developed to help fill the 900 vacancies expected for the coming school year. National requirements for “highly qualified” teachers make the job of filling Baltimore School teacher positions in math, science and special needs especially challenging. The 2001 No Child Left Behind Act raised standards nationally for teacher requirements. While this has many positive outcomes, the reality is that districts like the Baltimore Schools are struggling to find good teachers and enough of them.
Baltimore Schools hope to award 15 scholarships next year, and eventually 60 annually. The scholarships pay for $4,000 worth of tuition and expenses each year. Donald Peccia, the Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources and Governmental Relations for Baltimore Schools was quoted in a Baltimore Sun article as saying, “Just recruiting at school job fairs and colleges is not going to cut it. We need to be not just creative and innovative, we need to get the best of the best.”
The Baltimore Schools’ scholarship program, while unusual, is not the first of its kind. Florida’s Urban Academies initiative in Broward County Schools created a similar program in 2000 that has placed 360 teachers to date. 91% of those placed have stayed with the district for over 3 years. Maryland’s Workforce Shortage Student Assistance Grant Program gives scholarships to residents in careers with shortages, such as nursing and teaching. And a program sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield gives out grants of $40,000 per year to student nurses to earn advanced degrees. A district in Illinois has an innovative program that is investing $3 million in training non-traditional teachers like parents and career changers.
The success of those programs is part of what encouraged Baltimore Schools to “grow-their-own” crop of teachers for the coming year. Part of the goal is to keep valued graduates from leaving the state. The outlook of the Baltimore Schools’ newest recruitment tactic is so good that other local districts, like Hartford County, are considering the idea.
With college tuition increasing, and schools trying to raise to both state and national standards, the Baltimore Schools may find their success in non-traditional methods. School administrators also hope that local Baltimore School graduates will have a sense of ownership in the success of the district where they grew up.