Polk County Public Schools is improving how it attracts new teachers and keeps them serving in local classrooms, according to the latest updates to the district’s Strategic Plan.
During a recent retreat, School Board members and district staff discussed how innovative strategies are making the difference — even as a nationwide teacher shortage keeps competition fierce among school districts to fill vacancies.
The district’s Strategic Plan outlines various target areas, including student academic performance, graduation rate, and teacher recruitment and retention. PCPS has made gains in all of the plan’s goals.
New teacher retention rose to 75 percent in the 2018-2019 school year —a two percent increase from the prior school year. PCPS hired 1,093 new teachers, and 823 of them remained employed as teachers by the end of the school year.
In 2017-18, the retention rate for new teachers was 73 percent. PCPS hired 1,038 new teachers and retained 757 of them.
PCPS has found success with a mixture of virtual recruitment fairs, new teacher seminars and leadership development opportunities for experienced teachers. The district also created a new position, a teacher engagement leader, who oversees recruitment efforts and supports the development of teachers.
Recruitment events are scheduled regularly throughout the year. This month, the district has two teacher hiring events. A virtual job fair will be held on Thursday, Oct. 17 where candidates can chat online with principals from schools that are hiring now. There is also a Teacher Interview Day on Thursday, Oct. 24 at the main PCPS office in Bartow. For more information see Teaching Hiring Events Scheduled for October.
PCPS is also preparing high school students to become teachers of the future through a new partnership with Polk State College.
The program, known as ELITE (Establishing Leaders In Teacher Education), offers an accelerated path to a teaching career. After successfully completing two years at Polk State to earn their bachelor’s degree in elementary education or early childhood education, students are immediately eligible for employment as a teacher with PCPS.