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Opinion: Utah educators need more than incentives. They need respect.

Our efforts to recruit teachers by dangling carrots will fail.

(Rachel Rydalch | The Salt Lake Tribune) A teacher is pictured at South Davis Junior High in Bountiful on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022.

In answer to rising teacher attrition, it’s common to bolster recruitment by easing licensure requirements or restructuring salary schedules. Truth is, our efforts to recruit teachers by dangling carrots will fail, as candidate shortages are a symptom of a greater problem: For years, teaching has struggled to be recognized as a highly respected profession.

Rather than aiming for the misleading target of simple recruitment, education and government leaders must instead widen their aperture to implement retention strategies that elevate and honor the teaching profession.

Last spring, Utah districts negotiated salaries which included a generous increase from HB 215. In addition to competitive salaries, education leaders must be committed to providing perhaps the most valuable professional benefit: time.

For new teachers, embedded mentoring sessions, shared planning time and lighter teaching loads demonstrate the value of their continued professional learning and skill development.

For teachers of all experience levels, embedded professional learning including guided observations, evaluative feedback discussions and shared team collaboration time do more than lessen attrition; they professionalize teaching.

Research shows collective teacher efficacy has a greater impact on student achievement than any other educational practice, and schools that offer embedded reflection time produce higher levels of collective efficacy within grade level and department teams. As a veteran educator of 34 years, I have seen firsthand the benefits of these practices implemented in Davis School District.

Offering Utah educators a more intentional, respected role in education policy is another essential step in honoring the teaching profession. As our esteemed Utah legislators prepare for the 2024 session, I urge them to look through a lens of retention and respect for the teaching profession when drafting education bills. Specifically, reflecting on these questions:

  • How can I include current educators in the study, writing and feedback of my bill?

  • How can my bill include those with pedagogical expertise in the future processes of my proposed idea?

  • How does my bill honor our teachers’ expertise and efforts to provide an inclusive classroom culture for all students?

  • Would the effects of my bill encourage a high school or university student to seriously consider teaching as a career?

  • How will my bill’s outcomes elevate the teaching profession?

I know our legislators value the expertise of Utah educators and understand that strong public schools prepare a workforce of highly skilled persons who build Utah’s economy. I offer my sincere gratitude to those who will genuinely consider these questions and include Utah educators as valued contributors in the policy making process.

In addition to sustainable salaries, our retention strategies must include efforts to elevate the teaching profession and acknowledge the impact Utah teachers have on our communities and economy. We must go beyond just dangling carrots and incentivize teaching as a valuable career choice in Utah.

Allison Parker Riddle

Allison Parker Riddle has been a public educator for the past 34 years. After 26 years in her elementary classroom, Allison is the Elementary Induction coordinator for Davis School District where she leads the mentoring and professional learning of over 300 new teachers. Allison is also the Teacher Academy Schools coordinator where she designs and supports innovative clinical experiences for university teacher candidates. Allison served on Gov. Gary Herbert’s Education Excellence Commission for three years, and she is Utah’s 2014 Teacher of the Year.

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