Promising teachers

August 25, 2006

When an estimated 83,000 Baltimore students show up for school Monday, there is likely to be a teacher to cover every class, an impressive accomplishment for a school system that has to play catch-up all too frequently. Last year, the system was still scrambling to fill 150 vacancies when school started. What a difference planning and money can make.

Baltimore schools hired about 950 classroom teachers and 75 related professionals, such as special education providers, this year. School officials report that 92 percent of the new hires are "highly qualified," as required by the No Child Left Behind law, compared with 62 percent last year. The large number of new top-level teachers could lift the system total of nearly 5,700 classroom teachers from about 48 percent highly qualified to perhaps 58 percent. That's still way short of the 100 percent goal by the end of the 2006-2007 school year, but a nice leap in the right direction. And more than half of the new hires are from Maryland, a welcome sign that Baltimore was able to compete with districts around the state.

Why was the system so much more successful in its hiring this year? For one thing, officials started making offers as early as January, before all the most desirable candidates were snapped up by other districts. In addition, now that the system is floating in black ink rather than drowning in red ink, more financial incentives were offered. Over the last school year and the new school year, Baltimore teachers are receiving an 8 percent raise. And the system was able to offer this year's new hires curriculum-loaded laptop computers and $200 gift certificates. New teachers were also given stipends to offset the cost of attending a mandatory two-week training course earlier this month.

After such a stellar recruiting season, the school system has to make good on its pledge to provide adequate mentoring and professional development and to help teachers who are not highly qualified secure the necessary credentials to earn that designation. With so many promising hires coming to the school system, the next challenge is to persuade them to stay.

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