US Department of Education Unveils Campaign To Recruit Top Students As Teachers

The U.S. Department of Education has launched a new campaign to recruit top performing student as teachers after the Department estimated that as many as one million teachers could retire in the next four to six years.

The education department partnered with the Advertising Council, Microsoft, State Farm Insurance, Teach for America, the nation’s two largest teachers’ unions and several other educational groups to unveil a public service campaign aimed at recruiting a new generation of classroom educators, writes Motoko Rich of The New York Times.

The new campaign, called Teach, is designed to attract young, high-achieving college graduates, particularly in science, math and engineering. The campaign uses video spots and radio announcements that portray teaching as creative, invigorating and meaningful, and as compelling a career as medicine, acting or engineering.

The video spots, under the slogan Make More. Teach, are being sent to television stations around the country. The video sports feature actors enacting scenes in classrooms and beyond.

In one, a teacher stands in a swamp waist deep in waders as students look on from the shore tapping iPad screens and chasing frogs. In another scene, a teacher uses papier-mâché planets and surround-screen projection images of the solar system to enliven a science lesson.

Taylor Mali, a poet and a former teacher, provides the inspirational voice-over that evokes some military recruitment ads. “Teachers today are breaking down obstacles,” he says, “finding innovative ways to instill old lessons, proving that greatness can be found in everyday places.”

According to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the retirement of baby boomers creates an “amazing chance to make a difference for decades to come.” In addition to recruiting more candidates with science and math backgrounds, Duncan said the nation’s public schools need to attract more Hispanics and blacks, particularly men, to teaching.

Duncan cited the model of several countries where students regularly score high on standardized tests. They pull, he said, their teaching corps from the top tenth to top third of college graduates. Duncan also said he wants to persuade “very, very high caliber college graduates to come and work in our nation’s schools.”

Microsoft and State Farm are providing financial support for the campaign. Some of the funding will be used to hire recruiters to visit college campuses and talk to juniors and seniors about a career in education.

The campaign to hire top students as teachers comes at a time when public education is increasingly riven by battles over the use of standardized testing in teacher performance evaluations and the rollout of the Common Core. The standards have been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia.

Some critics believe that such policies, which have been encouraged by the Department of Education, could make recruiting top candidates to the profession more difficult.