A Long Distance Runner in the Endless Quest for Good Teachers Who'll Stick Around

There's wide agreement that teacher quality is one of the most important in-school factors when it comes to student performance. But attracting great talent to urban schools has never been easy—and retaining great teachers can be just as hard. It's a critical challenge for district leadership, and one that presents itself every year as they compete with suburban districts able to offer higher salaries, among other advantages.

This is also a challenge that's long preoccupied education funders, who've backed any number of strategies over decades to increase the supply of good teachers to high-need urban schools. Such funding has expanded exponentially in the past 15 years, with the rise of Teach for America, The New Teacher Project, and a range of smaller outfits. Last year, we reported on the Gates Foundation's engagement in a new round of major funding to organizations engaged in teacher recruitment and training. Also last year, the Walton Family Foundation announced a $50 million grant to Teach for America. 


Another funder with a longstanding interest in this area is the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Strengthening teaching was one of the earliest interests of Andrew Carnegie, who said, “Upon no foundation but that of popular education can man erect the structure of an enduring civilization.” And while CCNY long ago spun off the bulk of its work on teachers as a separate organization, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, it's remained keenly involved in human capital issues as part of its broader education work. Over recent years, it's made scores of grants for strengthening teaching and human capital, supporting a wide range of organizations working on teaching. Grants have gone to well-known players like Teach for America and the New Teacher Project, as well as to fund research and policy work, including at the academic level. 

Another grantee in the mix is the Urban Schools Human Capital Academy, which recently landed a $1.4 million grant from Carnegie, its second big grant from the foundation in recent years. USHCA is an interesting player in the ed field. It's a national nonprofit “HR bootcamp” for talent managers in urban districts, training staff to better find, employ and retain the best teachers and principals. The organization’s vision is a simple one: “There will be a high-quality teacher in every classroom and a high-quality principal in every school, because the best people will drive the best results for students.” The nonprofit has been deploying its three-year learning experience for school leaders since 2011, and currently works in more than 15 urban districts nationwide.

The program provides an opportunity for open discourse and problem solving around the human capital problems that are most important for those leaders to address, from recruitment tactics to compensation and performance management. The program’s desired outcomes include better assessment and improvement of human resource performance within all of those key strategy areas, including improving service differentiation and quality to HR managers and helping those managers develop a better understanding of best practices learned from the organization’s wider network of districts and national organizations.

The Carnegie Corporation has a five-pronged approach to education, with most of its ed grantees working within at least one of the main strategic objectives. USCHA falls squarely into the category of “leadership and teaching to advance learning.” The other target areas within Carnegie Corporation’s education umbrella category include new designs (focused on next generation schools and innovation), public understanding (for driving research on parent and family engagement in education), pathways to postsecondary success, and integration, learning, and innovation.