MEDIA RELEASE: Maine Department of Education Releases Teach Maine Plan to Develop, Support, and Sustain a Robust Education Workforce

The Maine Department of Education released the Teach Maine Plan, a comprehensive roadmap to develop, support, and sustain a robust educator workforce in the state. Unveiled during Teacher Appreciation Week, the Teach Maine Plan and new website provide a set of strategies and actions to inspire a talented and diverse future educator workforce, and to support and develop Maine’s current educator workforce.

The Teach Maine Plan is organized around four key themes: incentivize recruitment and retention efforts; expand and diversify educator workforce efforts; support educator development, growth, and leadership; and elevate educators and the education profession. While the Teach Maine Plan has multiple themes, strategies, and actions, they are interdependent and not designed to be implemented in isolation.

“The Maine Department of Education is committed to developing, supporting, and sustaining a vibrant and diverse education workforce, and honoring the expertise and leadership of Maine’s education professionals,” said Maine Education Commissioner Pender Makin. “Maine’s educators give it their all each and every day to teach, inspire, and nurture their students, and the Teach Maine Plan provides the resources and supports they need to keep doing what they do best while also attracting more amazing educators into our schools. I want to thank the many educators and stakeholders who contributed to this effort and we look forward to collaborating on moving this plan into action.”

The report is the result of contributions by education stakeholders throughout Maine, who provided feedback via multiple channels, including regional Think Tanks, focus groups, surveys, organizational meetings, and informal conversations. Additionally, the Department of Education convened an Educator Talent Committee, a core group of internal and external stakeholders, to share their experiences, look at research and trends, and to make recommendations on how to address Maine’s educator shortage.

“Teach Maine provides a blueprint that will help to develop, attract, and retain quality educators that the children in Maine deserve. The future of Maine’s economy is grounded in providing our students with a diverse and rigorous educational experience. Teach Maine will provide the foundation to ensure that Maine students graduate with the passion, knowledge, and skills to be productive members of the world they will lead,” said Maine School Superintendents Association Executive Director Eileen King.

“The themes of the Teach Maine Plan hit upon key issues to ensure that our system of public education in Maine will continue to be strong. Recognizing, respecting, and rewarding our educators for the vital work they do every day is critical to providing the education our students deserve,” said Maine Education Association President Grace Leavitt.

“We are very excited to see the impact that Teach Maine will have on our profession. By having a stronger emphasis on recruitment, and then providing mentoring and ongoing support that educators and educational leaders need, will only help keep high quality professionals in education. This is what our students deserve,” said Maine Principals’ Association Executive Director Dr. Holly Blair.  

“Teachers are the most important element in ensuring Maine has a well-educated citizenry that is essential for our future workforce and democracy. These strategies will help strengthen the teaching profession in Maine,” said Educator Talent Committee member and University of Southern Maine Chair and Associate Professor of Teacher Education Dr. Flynn Ross. 

The first theme of the Teach Maine Plan, incentivize recruitment and retention efforts, focuses on compensating educators competitively; providing financial incentives for high-needs subjects and locations; providing financial incentives for teacher expertise and teacher leadership; encouraging alternative compensation strategies, including housing, transportation, childcare, creative use of time, and sabbaticals; increasing scholarship and loan forgiveness programs; expanding service loan forgiveness and tax incentive programs; and increasing awareness of funding sources.

Research shows that low salary scales continue to negatively impact the educator pipeline, as well as the retention of practicing teachers. Compared to college-educated professionals in other fields, beginning teachers earn about 20 percent less, with the gap widening to 30 percent by mid-career. While the Mills administration made a significant step in addressing overall teacher compensation to guarantee a minimum salary of $40,000, more must be done to make working in education a financially sustainable career.

The second theme, diversify and expand educator workforce efforts, includes strategies to recruit, prepare, and hire racially, ethnically, and linguistically diverse educators; retain diverse educators by addressing the policies and practices of structural racism; increase educator recruitment efforts; reduce costs; increase marketing for active recruitment of educators; increase high retention pathways into teaching such as teacher residencies, grow your own, and education career pathways starting in high school; promote teacher residencies for high-need School Administrative Units (SAUs) and content areas; promote additional dual certification programs for high-needs content areas; grow your own education technician and community college partnerships; and education career pathways in high school/CTE schools.

Building an educator workforce that reflects the racial, ethnic, and linguistic diversity of the student population has been shown to have positive impacts on student achievement. Research has shown that matching teacher racial identity with student identity can improve academic achievement, high school graduation rates, and college enrollment rates. And all students who have had teachers of diverse races or cultural backgrounds are better prepared for success in a global world.

The report finds that to make progress towards recruitment and retention initiatives, Maine needs a comprehensive and transparent data collection and management system. The strategy to expand data systems includes actions to characterize the current educator population in greater detail; determine educator needs geographically in Maine; create a statewide job board; and collect SAU-level data such as exit interviews and surveys.

Theme three, support educator development, growth, and leadership, includes strategies to expand induction and mentoring for new educators; strengthen state and SAU supports for mentoring and induction; scaffolded induction with time to learn, including not just orientation and access to mentors but also access to coaches, common planning time with mentors, and resource allocation to support success; establish a network of new educators for peer support; strengthen ongoing professional support through professional learning opportunities at the school, SAU, regional, and state level; develop and support high-quality teacher leadership; and develop and support well-qualified school and SAU leaders.

The support that new educators are given throughout their pre-service career and first few years of teaching has a direct impact on their retention as career educators. Key elements of high-quality induction strongly associated with reduced rates of teacher turnover include assigning mentors from the same field, common planning time and opportunities to collaborate with teachers in the same subject area, and being part of an external network of teachers.

Theme four, elevate educators and the education profession, includes strategies and actions to promote the positive public perception of public education and the education workforce, and expand and diversify educator recognition programs. To recruit and retain a vibrant educator workforce and make teaching an attractive profession also requires strengthening public perception and confidence in Maine schools and demonstrating appreciation for educators not just during teacher appreciation week, but every week of the year.