On November 12, 2012, I had the privilege to serve on a panel to discuss the importance of attracting and retaining “irreplaceable” teachers. Before the panel discussion started, Tim Daly, President of The New Teacher Project (TNTP), introduced to the group a 30-minute summary of his recent report on the “The Irreplaceables.” Tim explained to the group that irreplaceable teachers are those educators who have dramatically improved student achievement and would be extremely difficult to replace. After reflecting on Tim’s report, I concluded that there are three major approaches to attract and retain such effective teachers.

The first approach is compensation. In the county that I have the pleasure of serving as a teacher, eligible teachers are paid bonuses through the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) grant. In order to receive the bonus, teachers must have dramaticaly improved their students’ achievement and earned high classroom evaluation SCOREs. When I received my bonus last November, it reminded me that my hard work and dedication is not unnoticed. In order to retain irreplaceable teachers, school districts must strategically establish a performance-based pay schedule to reward these teachers.

In addition to performance-based compensation, irreplaceable teachers want the opportunity to work at a school where they can improve their craft as a teacher. At our high school, the principal consistently informs us of meaningful professional development opportunities to help us continue to improve as teachers. Last year, my principal encouraged the math and science teachers to enroll in a two year Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) program that would help us to effectively transition to the Common Core State Standards. By having a supportive principal focused on my professional growth, it makes me feel like she genuinely cares about the students as well as improving my craft as a teacher.

The last approach in attracting and retaining irreplaceable teachers is to establish a work environment that promotes effective collaboration amongst teachers. As Alvin Toffler noted, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Irreplaceable teachers are attracted to schools where they can learn from others. My school has done a great job at allowing our most effective teachers to lead instructional teams to demonstrate what effective teaching looks like and to be mentors for new teachers. Having been on a football team that won three consecutive conference championships in college, I understand the importance of collaboration amongst a team in order to achieve a common goal.

In order for Tennessee to be the fastest state in improving student achievement, every student must have access to irreplaceable teachers. By providing appropriate compensation, allowing opportunities for professional growth, and establishing great work environments that promote effective collaboration, schools may be able to attract and retain our most effective teachers.


Watch Tim Daly present The Irreplaceables.