Great Districts for Great Teachers

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Image provided by the District of Columbia Public Schools

For teachers, finding satisfaction in their classroom, school, and district is key to longevity and success. A recent study by the US Department of Education highlights that satisfaction is closely related to which school they choose and how school leadership support them. In 2011-12, about 95 percent of public school teachers who agreed that the administration in their schools was supportive were satisfied with their jobs. This was 30 percentage points higher than teachers who disagreed that the administration was supportive.

It would be great if, as a new teacher, you knew beforehand what the culture of support was like in a school and district. The first-ever Great Districts for Great Teachers initiative by NCTQ shines a helpful light on important criteria for choosing the right district for you. This project, launched at SXSWedu earlier this month, examined the policies and practices at school districts around the country and named eight Great Districts1 -- districts that build cultures to attract and retain great teachers by:

- Compensating strong teachers with competitive salaries

- Providing teachers with the professional development and training they need to excel

- Passing district level policies that reward quality teaching, and efficient and transparent management

- Providing great teachers with leadership opportunities

- Supporting teachers to meet student needs

These considerations are vital to all teachers. As you think about where you might want to teach, ask yourself the following questions:

- What level of pay do I want and how much do I need in order to live in the community?

- Do I see myself teaching at-risk students?

- Do I want to teach and live in an urban, suburban, or rural setting?

It's equally important to ask about policies such as:

- How much support does the school offer new teachers?

- What are the pathways available for leadership positions?

- What types of feedback will I receive and how will it impact my evaluation?

- What type of support does the school offer to students with special academic needs?

Careful introspection and probing questions about the school environment will help you choose the right place to work. You can also see NCTQ's Teacher Contract Database for an abundance of information on these and other important factors. Good luck!

--Curtis Valentine

1 The eight districts honored are Boston Public Schools, Broward County Public Schools, Denver Public Schools, District of Columbia Public Schools, Gwinnett County Public Schools, New York City Public Schools, Pinellas County Schools, and Pittsburgh Public Schools.