Later this month, the county should know how many teachers it will be losing this year. Teacher retention is an on-going problem for the county. Due to salary constraints, the county is forced to recruit fresh, green teachers right out of school, usually from states like Pennsylvania that require three or more years of experience before they can teach there. After they get teaching experience here, they tend to move on, either back home or to higher paying regions. Our students are stuck with a revolving door of inexperienced teachers.
As Northampton struggles to keep, and even pay teachers, the administration may want to look at a small but growing movement to recruit teachers from overseas. This may be a way to obtain highly qualified and experienced teachers in a place where tax revenue is too low to adequately fund schools, or for teachers to secure a middle-class lifestyle.
Teachers from countries such as the Philippines hold J-1 visas, which allow them to work temporarily in the United States, like au pairs or camp counselors, but offer no path to citizenship. More than 2,800 foreign teachers arrived on American soil last year through the J-1, according to the State Department, up from about 1,200 in 2010.
The J-1 lasts three years, with the option for two one-year extensions.
School districts that recruit experienced teachers from overseas say that they have few other options because they can’t find enough American educators willing to work for the pay that’s offered. They say that the foreign teachers are being given valuable opportunities and that American students are enriched by learning from them.
Critics argue the teachers are being taken advantage of in a practice that helps keep wages low and perpetuates yearslong austerity policies.
School administrators have admitted that in many cases, foreign educators can be a better option for students than the inexperienced teachers or substitutes who would otherwise fill these positions. As we are seeing in our county, poor teacher retention negatively impacts academic achievement. J-1 teachers are, because of the visa’s limitations, temporary. Yet unless Northampton can find a way to higher pay and regular raises, it will continue to be hard to attract enough quality American teachers and keep them in the classroom.
Laurie Wolpert says
J-1 teachers are, because of the visa’s limitations, temporary.
I’m not sure how that really solves the “revolving door”. It only changes the faces that are revolving.
Note: Very good point. The J-1 teachers can only teach for up to 5 years, but they can actually reapply. It may still be a revolving door, but it will be revolving with teachers that have 5 or more years of experience, and also bring valuable cultural differences (experiences) they can impart on our students.
Laurie Wolpert says
I myself have no problem with cultural exchange programs or diversity, to an extent. However, my understanding of Northampton County is that the school performed the best as a whole when it had stable, competent leadership and there were many teachers who had taught for 15+ years at Northampton. These teachers were seasoned professionals who were part of the lifeblood of the school. They understood the community and the people who were among it; they lived their lives and their children’s lives embedded in a network of long-standing relationships. I seriously doubt such knowledge will be obtained by tourists, however well-meaning. It’s ironic to see the Mirror making these arguments as many of the changes brought upon by imported labor forces tend to be disruptive to local culture and ways of life, which locals tend to dislike.