Strategy C: Diversify Maine’s Educator Workforce
Building an educator workforce that reflects the racial, ethnic, and linguistic diversity of the student population has been shown to have positive impacts on student achievement.13 Teacher identities matter to students’ education. Research has shown that matching teacher racial identity with student identity can improve academic achievement, high school graduation rates, and college enrollment rates.14 Additionally, all students who have had teachers of diverse race or cultural background are better prepared for success in a global world.15
The diversification of Maine’s educator workforce is a top priority for the Maine DOE. The Department recently hired a Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) to lead internal and external DEI initiatives and professional learning. Additionally, Maine will build on the work of the New England Secondary School Consortium’s (NESSC) Diversifying the Educator Workforce Task Force, of which Maine DOE was an active contributor, as well as Portland Public Schools (PPS) initiatives. Both organizations have generated reports with recommendations for the recruitment and retention of diverse educators (NESSC’s report: Increasing the Racial, Ethnic, and Linguistic Diversity of the Educator Workforce: A Call to Action for Leaders. PPS’s report: Educators of Color Insights Full Report: What Will It Take For Educators of Color to Thrive in PPS?)
Actions to achieve this goal include:
- C1: Recruit, Prepare, and Hire Racially, Ethnically, and Linguistically Diverse Educators
Strategic recruitment of diverse educators include marketing job opportunities to historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs); marketing to diverse high school students currently living in Maine, as research indicates that 60% of teachers teach within 20 miles of where they grew up; and intentional outreach to a diverse population of educational technicians for grow your own programs mentioned in strategy E3.
Strategies to support the preparation of diverse educators include investing in educator preparation programs to increase enrollment and improve the preparation of diverse educators, such as providing targeted scholarships to support diverse students to pursue teaching as a profession; providing financial supports to help ensure completion of educator preparation programs; removing testing barriers; and improving reciprocity of teacher credentialing. A leadership pipeline should be created for diverse educators. This includes a clear, supported pathway with multiple opportunities for leadership roles.
Strategies to support the hiring of more racially, ethnically and linguistically diverse educators include setting clear goals at the local and state level to increase student access to diverse educators; directing resources to support SAUs in hiring and recruiting diverse educators; and reviewing hiring practices. This includes examining the make-up of hiring committees, educating hiring committees about the role of bias in hiring processes, and being deliberate in the design of interview questions to support a more diverse pool of candidates.
- C2: Retain Diverse Educators by Addressing the Policies and Practices of Structural Racism
Maine must invest in efforts to retain diverse educators by ensuring that Maine schools are welcoming, inclusive institutions that can retain persons of color and culturally and linguistically diverse teachers, administrators, and staff. Providing high-quality DEI professional development to all school staff supports this strategy.
Further, schools should outline equity-based and culturally plural norms that are evidence for teaching excellence. They should nurture and support local and regional affinity groups and mentorship programs for educators of color to support each other and compensate diverse educators for leading professional learning. SAUs should develop and publicize policy regarding the value of and appropriate uses of home language by staff and students, and find ways to recognize, reward, and remunerate staff who use language skills to benefit the school and districts.
Strategy D: Increase Educator Recruitment Efforts
Maine has already taken some policy actions toward expanding the pool of qualified educators, by incentivizing and reducing barriers for retired teachers to return to the profession in high shortage areas. In a 2019 change, law (5 M.R.S. §17859) allowed teachers to return to teaching while collecting retirement, earning 100% of the salary for the position (increased from the previous 75%), and continue to contribute to the state retirement system, thereby enlarging the pool of qualified educators.
In July, 2021, Governor Mills signed into law L.D. 1189: An Act to Amend Teacher Certification Statutes, which reduces barriers for individuals to join Maine’s educator workforce. Changes resulting from this law include:
Emergency teacher certificate: applicants who are issued a criminal history record check (CHRC) may qualify with either a 4-year postsecondary degree or equivalent work/academic experience, or enrollment in an approved teacher preparation program, or currently hold an Education Technician III certificate qualify for an emergency teacher certificate. The certificate is issued for one year, with a maximum of 3 emergency certificates issued per applicant.
Reciprocal professional certificate: teachers, specialists, or administrators who are issued a CHRC and hold a comparable certificate in another state, the District of Columbia, a United States territory or another country may qualify for a professional certificate, to be issued for 5 years.
Testing: although Praxis testing is no longer required, it remains an option for obtaining a teacher certificate. Additional options include meeting a 3.0 GPA in required coursework, or approval of a portfolio submission, based on Maine’s Initial Teaching Certification Standards.
Emergency education technician certificate: applicants who are issued a CHRC and complete a Maine DOE approved program, including Eastern Maine Community College’s (EMCC) Learning Facilitator program, may be issued an emergency Education Technician certificate for a period of 5 years, and may be hired as an Education Technician III.
This legislation also removes barriers for language immersion teachers and school psychologists.
Building on LD 1189, Rule Chapter 115 credentialing is under revision. It has received broad-based input from the Consensus-based Rulemaking Committee, consisting of administrators, Career and Technical Educators, Special Educators, teachers, and education specialists, who have provided credentialing recommendations for Chapter 115 Part I and Part II to the State Board of Education.
In addition to policy changes, in 2016, Maine’s certification process moved to an online platform (MEIS: Maine Educator Information System), and the Maine DOE Certification Team has revised the certification website for easier navigation. These major changes have streamlined the application and renewal process for education professionals.
Along with these efforts, Maine should continue to explore strategies to expand the pool of qualified educators in the state with targeted policies that promote flexibility while ensuring continued high standards to enter the profession.
- D1: Support educators from out-of-state
If Maine is to recruit educators from out of state, it must build on current efforts to streamline licensure reciprocity and address policies that would encourage teachers to move to Maine, including pension portability across state lines.
- D2: Reduce Costs
Out-of-pocket costs for candidates applying for initial teacher certification can be a barrier for recent college graduates, military families experiencing transfers, and individuals new to Maine. These include the $55 fingerprinting fee, the $15 Criminal History Records Check (CHRC) that accompanies fingerprinting, the $100 application for initial certification fee, the $100 renewal fee, and the fees for services contracted to external providers. Also, the fee for international transcript verification is at least $205, if teaching candidates attended higher education outside of the United States, including Canada. A legislative fund could be established to cover the costs for qualified candidates.
Additionally, Maine policymakers should revisit and consider a recommendation from the 2001 K-12 Educator Recruitment and Retention Commission study to remove the reduction of social security benefits for career changes.16 Called the “windfall act” it states that educators receiving their contributions to the Maine retirement system are not allowed to also collect any prior contributions to federal social security, including spousal survivor benefits.
- D3: Marketing for Active Recruitment of Educators
Maine has many strengths it can capitalize on to attract a strong educator workforce. In 2019, the Maine Department of Economic Development published the Maine Economic Development Strategy, a dynamic strategic ten-year plan designed to support a “diverse and sustainable” economy for Maine. Included in the recommendation is the need for an intentional branding effort highlighting the benefits of living and working in Maine. Participants in the regional Think Tank sessions also suggested a branding campaign featuring the beauty of Maine, opportunities for outdoor recreation and outdoor learning, and the relative safety of Maine with an overall improved quality of life.
Maine can look to other regions, states and countries for examples of active marketing campaigns to recruit educators. They offer centralized communication and access to resources. They mail targeted brochures and posters to college and university educator preparation programs, and they use social media campaigns and incentives targeted to specific audiences. The Maine DOE is consulting with a marketing specialist to assist in these efforts.
Strategy E: Increase High Retention Pathways into Teaching
The single most important factor in quality education is quality teachers.17 The financial costs of teacher turnover are significant for local school districts (calculate your district costs here).18 The academic costs of high teacher attrition impact student learning. Attrition also results in the loss of human capital and has a lasting impact on institutional memory.
Investing in evidence-based models of high retention pathways into teaching addresses the high financial and human capital costs of teacher turnover. The long-term retention for graduates of higher education teacher preparation is substantive19, making the investment cost-effective.
Traditional teacher preparation through colleges and universities occurs at the bachelor’s and master’s degree levels. Maine currently has fifteen institutions of higher education (IHEs) that prepare teachers at the undergraduate level and four that prepare teachers at the graduate level. As pointed out previously, costs of higher education for teacher preparation range from $15,000 for a public master’s degree to over $100,000 for a private four-year degree.
There are a variety of high retention models for teacher preparation nationally, several of which currently exist in Maine and can be strengthened and brought to scale. These include teacher residencies, grow your own, and education career pathways starting in high school. There are one year, four to six-year, and eight to ten-year models to build a sustainable, diverse, and well-prepared teaching workforce.
Federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Title II, Part A funds can be leveraged with state allocations and matching SAU funds to create these pathways. These strategies provide high expectations, scaffolded support, and intentional clinical experiences, resulting in a well-prepared educator workforce.
Actions to further address this goal include:
- E1: Teacher Residencies for High-Need SAUs and Content Areas - One Year Models
Teacher residency models are high-impact, high-cost models to address immediate critical shortages, and should be utilized in Maine. They are usually one-year, post-baccalaureate pathways offered through SAU and university partnerships that ensure year-long mentored apprenticeships paired with high-quality, clinically based coursework. Ideally, residents receive funding for tuition and living expenses plus a stipend or salary while working in schools full-time and attending courses full-time. While most residency programs are concentrated in urban centers, there are a growing number of programs with a rural focus, such as the Teacher Residency for Rural Education at the University of New Hampshire funded by a federal Teacher Quality Partnership Grant that the Teach Western Mass Residency coordinated through a multi-district, foundation, and state department of education collaboration. Accepted applicants receive 50% in-state tuition discount, $28,000 salary and a laptop in exchange for teaching for three years in a rural NH partnership school.
Examples across the nation are well established, researched, and collaborate through the National Center for Teacher Residency Network. Effective models create vehicles to recruit teachers, offer strong content and clinical preparation, and provide mentoring support. Guha, Hyler, and Darling-Hammond (2016) describe these characteristics in greater depth here20.
The Bowdoin Teacher Scholars is a model endowed by the Snow Family Fund that waives postgraduate tuition, provides a living stipend, and helps offset costs including fingerprinting, testing, and certification application fees as well as housing and transportation costs.
The University of Southern Maine graduate ETEP (Extended Teacher Education Program) collaboration with Biddeford Schools has developed a model in which students in the two-year pathway are hired part-time by the school administrative unit. The graduate students take their methods courses the first year and the internship courses the second year while working part-time for the SAU in a mentor teacher’s classroom, allowing the mentor teacher flexibility for other teacher leadership roles.
- E2: Promote Additional Dual Certification Programs for High-Needs Content Areas
Currently in Maine, two universities offer dual certification in general education and special education. The University of Maine at Farmington offers early childhood special education at the undergraduate level and the University of Southern Maine offers K-8 and 7-12 general education and special education in an integrated master’s degree. These dual certification programs prepare teachers to work with students with diverse abilities and special needs in both a general education and special education setting, while also allowing for teacher mobility across programs. These programs may serve as a model in creating dual certification programs for other high-needs areas.
- E3: Grow Your Own Education Technician and Community College Partnerships - Four to Six Year Models
Grow Your Own (GYO) programs capitalize on promoting teacher candidates already living and working in local communities. Sixty percent of teachers teach within twenty miles of where they attended high school.21 Maine should invest in the workforce development of people already living in local communities and working in schools. The research demonstrates that the retention rates for GYO teachers are significantly higher than other models of teacher recruitment.
The most common model is to support educational technicians and others who are currently employed in schools to become certified teachers. Through strategically selected job positions, and slightly modified work schedules, employees can earn a salary and maintain health benefits, while pursuing their teacher certification at local partner colleges and universities. This is typically done at the graduate level with courses offered after school, in the evenings, and online to allow for the continuity of school day work schedule. Some promising models like Teach Portland Academy are capitalizing on summer school partnerships that allow for greater flexibility of work and school schedules.
- E4: Education Career Pathways in High School/CTE Schools - Eight to Ten Year Models
Building education career pathways in our state’s network of 27 Career & Technical Education (CTE) schools has the potential to foster a sustainable pipeline of future teachers. Many of Maine’s CTE schools already offer an early childhood program for careers that have not historically required a college degree. Programs to support future teachers must be academically rigorous to meet college entry expectations, as well as, offer engaging applied learning in educational settings.
Across the nation, many high schools partner with Educators Rising, a professional organization that supports secondary students interested in education-related careers. Educators Rising offers micro-credentials that may be recognized in place of an entry level three credit course, as is the case at the University of Southern Maine (USM). CTE schools may also participate in a two-year curriculum that has been accepted at some universities for up to 16 credits, allowing students to begin their college programs an entire semester ahead of schedule. This helps address the costs of the college degree and the distance learning options needed in rural communities. Students enrolled in an Educators Rising program are also more likely to continue their undergraduate work with the partnering college or university, making this a strong recruitment tool for Maine’s Educator Preparation Programs.
Strategy F: Expand Data Systems
Maine currently collects data related to our educator workforce through a variety of sources. These sources include the educator certification data (MEIS system), SAU data on staffing (NEO), and Title-II reporting from institutions of higher education on pre-service educators. Each year, the Maine Department of Education submits a teacher shortage report to the US Department of Education. This data is based on the percentage of inexperienced, out-of-field, or emergency certificates issued in comparison to the total educators working under specific certifications (as well as, suggestions from school administrative units). While this is a starting point, it does not provide a comprehensive overview of the trends in supply and demand that are critical in strategic planning.
To make progress towards recruitment and retention initiatives, Maine needs a comprehensive and transparent data system. Initially, Maine should collect baseline data including those entering the profession, those leaving the profession, and the number of vacant positions at the start of the school year. For example, CERRA, the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention, and Advancement in South Carolina, generates yearly reports related to educator supply and demand which are readily accessible to the public. This is a model that Maine may wish to consider as the State strives to better understand changes in the educator workforce and the reasons behind such trends.
Actions to further address this goal include:
- F1: Characterize the current educator population in greater detail
Currently, the Department does not formally collect data on the race and ethnicity of school staff. As Maine strives to diversify the educator workforce, it should collect this data, as well as educators’ primary/home language to make educator diversity data visible and actionable to stakeholders.
- F2: Determine educator needs geographically in Maine
Maine currently does not generate a shortage report that is specific to geographic regions. In order to develop initiatives that target specific needs, it is critical that this information is represented. Maine should also consider collecting data on current openings and anticipated needs by geographic region.
- F3: Create a Statewide Job board
To help address educator shortages, most states have a centralized job listing service. Maine is not among them, but Maine should be. Currently Maine SAUs list open positions on private job list platforms such as Serving Schools or School Spring. Not only is the lack of a centralized job platform a barrier for potential applicants, it also raises the issue of equity, as many smaller, rural districts cannot afford to participate in private listing services. A centralized and comprehensive job search tool would efficiently match job openings with qualified candidates and make the hiring process more equitable among SAUs. Data from this job board system could also help higher education and other organizations be more strategic in educator preparation and recruitment to address the needs in the field.
- F4: Collect SAU Level Data (Exit interviews, surveys)
Exit surveys are one way in which SAUs can better understand teacher attrition and mobility. Quantitative and qualitative data can provide insight into the reasons that educators leave the SAU or the profession. Some SAUs in Maine have been using this practice to find ways to support their educators. Tools have been developed that SAUs may consider adopting or adapting to have a more concrete understanding of retention strategies. The Ohio Department of Education developed a survey that Local Education Agencies use.22 Maine should work with educational leaders to create a model that could be used locally.