Patricia Hawke for

What does it take to catch a teacher? Nashville Schools and surrounding districts are trying to answer that question. Incentives including pay increases, job fairs, full time recruiters and on-site child care have been implemented as recruiters and administrators try to lure good teachers to Nashville Schools.  The Metro district increased starting salaries by $2,000 for the ’06-’07 school year. Did it help? Only 8 positions were left unfilled at year’s end, but the reason for that is still unclear. 
Even so, the year end scramble to fill the slots for next year has already started for most Nashville Schools. Why? 500-600 teachers retire from Nashville Schools on a yearly basis. Others leave for better paying jobs, are let go, or don’t meet the license requirements of the federally mandated No Child Left Behind Act. This can mean that students in Nashville Schools face overcrowded classrooms, or are bounced from teacher to teacher as class sizes are balanced.
How big is this problem? 50% of teachers hired in Tennessee in 2002 had left teaching by 2006. Not their jobs, the teaching profession. How does this directly impact Nashville Schools? The scramble for teachers is largely impacted by the attractiveness of the incentives and the atmosphere. So adjacent districts to Nashville Schools are all competing for the same small pool of qualified teachers
Wilson County has offered on-site child-care to its teachers for years. Yet that option has failed in other districts. Higher teacher pay in Nashville Schools may not look as good as a job in Cheatham County. This Nashville neighbor only employs 500 teachers, but rarely has a position unfilled in the fall. Now that is a position that Nashville Schools would love. Other local systems start with 40-50 openings. So what do teachers have to say?
The Tennessean Newspaper’s Website is filled with blogs by teachers, former teachers, and many hoping to become former teachers in Nashville Schools. One unidentified Nashville Schools’ resident recently said, “Higher starting salaries are a lure but the salary scale has been so compressed that there is no future in teaching. A senior teacher with 25 years experience would make no more money than when she started when adjusted for cost-of living. Many, many alternatives offer higher pay, greater potential and a less demeaning work environment. Teaching is no longer a profession, it’s just a job, and not a good one at that.”
So Nashville Schools must figure out how to lure good teachers, and keep them. In a political climate dictated by testing, reforms, and rising standards, it might be time some attention was focused on exactly what teacher’s want and how to give it to them.