NSNO awarded federal grant for schools to put toward teacher and school leader recruitment, retention, and support

In New Orleans, our teachers are powerful, talented, and fiercely dedicated to their students. But nationally and here in New Orleans, it has been hard for schools to hire all the great teachers and principals they need, and to help them stay, especially long-term. On average, over the past three years in New Orleans, 25% of teachers left their roles each year. NSNO has been awarded $14.3 million from the United States Department of Education to help. 

The majority of that money will flow directly to public charter networks so they can support their own plans for teacher development, retention, and compensation. Because we believe that schools are the experts on their own work, they will have broad flexibility in how they spend it. They will, however, need to commit funding toward the grant’s five core initiatives aimed to make the greatest impact on recruitment and retention. These initiatives are based on the feedback of thousands of local teachers and school leaders and on careful research about what truly works. Schools will be asked to: 

Give high-performing teachers a raise

Participating schools must increase compensation for their highest performing teachers by at least 10% of their current salary. Research shows that this 10% increase is the minimum required to have an impact on retention. To decide which teachers are highest performing, schools must have a comprehensive, holistic evaluation system in place.

Offer leadership development within the classroom

Too often, teachers can’t advance in their careers without leaving their role in the classroom. They might move into important roles coaching or leading teams, but they’re no longer teaching their students directly. To address this, schools can instead put real meaning and money behind opportunities to develop leadership within the classroom, such as grade team leaders and instructional coaches.

Invest in best practices for teacher recruitment and put increased effort into hiring prospective teachers who are from New Orleans

New Orleans has a long history of producing phenomenal educators. There are clear strategies and practices that schools can follow to recruit and retain those great teachers – some as simple as a principal personally welcoming new hires or meeting with their top teachers about their career goals each fall. 

Provide increased compensation and/or development for Special Education teachers and teachers supporting students learning English

Special education teachers and teachers supporting students learning English have unique roles that call for specialized training and support. Sometimes, aspects of their complex work aren’t covered in traditional professional development sessions. Stronger compensation and specific professional development can go a long way in helping these teachers be successful and feel secure in their roles.

Provide rigorous, comprehensive professional development to all staff to create schools that are diverse, equitable, and inclusive

Strong diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work in schools is a non-negotiable. Our schools must feel safe, affirming, and responsive to both students and teachers’ identities and experiences, and no one should have to experience racism, sexism, or homophobia at work. To create this environment, school and network leaders need to take real action, guided by experts. Doing so is not just the right and ethical choice, it is one that influences retention. Research shows that in an organization perceived as not diverse, equitable, and inclusive, under 30% of staff of color intend to stay in their roles beyond three years. NSNO’s funding to networks must therefore be spent, in part, offering serious, meaningful DEI work across their schools and teams.

This funding will go to twenty-seven schools across the six largest charter networks in the city, which educate almost 22,000 children. The federal grant application required that we show a scale of programming that larger networks demonstrated best; these six networks teach roughly 44% of the city’s public school students. We will work to secure funding to expand these programs and offerings to other schools in the years to come.

School and network leaders are already on board. They’re excited about this opportunity and what it will mean for their children. 

“Our schools are strong because our educators are strong,” explained Tanya Bryant, CEO of ReNEW schools. “To retain their immense talent, we need to provide the compensation and support they deserve, and this funding goes a long way in helping us do that. It is truly a game-changer in how we can show up for our teachers, which in turn is a game-changer in how we show up for our children.” 

Compensation Study 

In addition to this grant, NSNO will be embarking on an important study around teacher salaries in New Orleans. Louisiana ranks in the 5 lowest-paying states for educators, and lags in average salary compared to many neighbors even regionally. School leaders have shared that they believe New Orleans public schools’ average salary starts lower than local neighbors like Jefferson Parish. Strong, holistic compensation is vital to teacher retention and can be confusing in a decentralized district. To help with this, NSNO is launching an initiative to help all our public schools understand what competitive pay and benefits look like for their educators. We have contracted with the education nonprofit EdFuel to conduct a citywide compensation study. 

This study will gather salaries and benefit details from schools across the district and provide individual reports for each organization that tells them exactly where they stack up in the city. This data will be robust; roughly 95% of schools are participating. They will have concrete data to be able to tell a story about how they take care of and compensate their educators and drive decisions about how to strengthen support in the future. Additionally, schools and networks will be able to leverage this data to demonstrate their need for better funding to the state.

We know schools want to support their educators as they have the hardest, most important jobs in the world. They deserve to have what they need to keep doing the work they love, and in turn, provide the stable, consistent environment our students deserve. 

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