GPSN Announces Funding to Help Schools Retain High-Quality Teachers

Posted by Katy Hollyday on December 01, 2016 at 10:33 AM

Amid Teacher Shortage, Group Aims to Keep Best Educators in the Classroom with Increased Training and Independent Projects

February 17, 2017 (LOS ANGELES, CA) – Great Public Schools Now (GPSN), a non-profit dedicated to identifying and replicating successful educational programs in underserved communities, announced today that it will spend nearly $900,000 to fund programs designed to help six educational organizations support their best teachers through programs that will increase training, improve work-life balance, and offer financial incentives for additional professional development.

High teacher attrition rates have been a persistent problem in American education and contribute to low morale and poor student performance, according to studies. The GPSN grants will allow already successful schools to keep their most irreplaceable teachers in the classroom where they can best help students succeed. Under the terms of the grant, successful retention programs will be replicated at campuses throughout the Los Angeles region.  

“We know that teachers are the most important factor within a school and that keeping great ones in the classroom can have an immediate and profound effect on students,” said Myrna Castrejón, Executive Director for GPSN.  “We believe that these programs have found creative and common sense ways to help teachers do what they do best: inspire students to reach their full potential.”

Grant awards reflect each proposal’s budget, the number of teachers and students who will benefit from the funding, and the incentives educators may receive.

The organizations or schools receiving grants during this round of funding are:

• Florence Nightingale Middle School BET magnet, which will use a $65,000 grant to offer funding for high-performing L.A. Unified teachers to develop unique programs and innovative practices that will improve student academic achievement, as well as opportunities to pursue National Board Certification.

•Teach Plus, which will use a $90,000 grant to create opportunities for teachers to run professional learning communities at their school sites, share experiences, and widen impact of their skills.

• PUC Charter Schools, which will use a $105,000 grant to provide more professional development and funds for teacher-selected grant opportunities for training and conferences.

• Aspire Public Schools, which will use a $153,000 grant to offer teachers up to 15 sabbatical days to work on an education-related “passion project,” more professional development, and stipends for completing training.

• Environmental Charter Schools, which will use a $200,000 grant to give high-performing teachers paid time away from the classroom to visit other school sites, receive coaching, and develop relationships with students and families.

• Bright Star Schools, which will use a $250,000 grant to give teachers up to four weeks of paid maternity or paternity leave, a child care subsidy, on-campus fitness classes, and nutrition counseling. 

All organizations or schools receiving grants have a track record of retaining at least 70% of their teachers over the past year. At least 50% of the students at grant-recipient schools also met or exceeded proficiency in English or math in the most recent state tests or had 25% of students reaching proficient levels while the school as a whole performed significantly better in math and English than surrounding campuses with similar demographics. 

Grant recipients all enroll special education students and English-language learners at rates comparable to district schools as a whole.

"The GPSN grant empowers irreplaceable teachers by giving them the resources and freedom to define what works best in their classrooms and communities,” said Nightingale Principal Dr. Rafael Gaeta. “This grant will prolong the careers of excellent teachers while also helping them reach and inspire even more students to reach their full potential.”

Supporting teachers is one of GPSN’s highest priorities. Three out of four California school districts reported having a teacher shortage for this school year, according to a recent study by the Learning Policy Institute.

Research shows a great teacher generates five to six more months of student learning than a poor performer. Replacing the best educator at a school is incredibly difficult because, in addition to the student achievement, great teachers play an irreplaceable role in creating school culture and building strong family relationships.

“We know that a high quality teacher is the single most important factor influencing student achievement.  In fact, a single supportive and respectful relationship with a teacher has been shown to have ripple effects, positively improving student engagement and behavior across all classrooms,” Melissa Kaplan, Chief Academic Officer for Bright Star Schools.  “If we are to have any hope of creating sustainable change in education, we must retain our students' greatest resource: our teachers.  It's time to stop perpetuating the myth of the teacher martyr and start creating working conditions that allow instructors to make teaching a lifelong career.”     

GPSN and grant recipients will monitor teacher data, including parental and student feedback, to determine which retention strategies are the most successful and will continue to fund similar programs in the future.

“We are encouraged by this first round of projects and look forward to doing more work to keep irreplaceable teachers at schools,” Castrejón said.