Recruiting Participants (Scholars)

Incentives - Stipends, Graduate and Recertification Credit

NSF Teacher Enhancement Projects traditionally offer $60/day stipends; Eisenhower projects offer $50; some others offer $100. In the Partnership, we have found that projects offering stipends draw a greater demographic diversity than those that don't: young women and men with child care responsibilities and/or summer jobs cannot afford to attend summer programs unless they receive a stipend to cover their costs (and the extra taxes since stipends are taxable income).

We offer many of our summer programs for graduate credit through Continuing Education at the University of Massachusetts. Although the credits have limited value for those enrolled in graduate degree programs (they have to be transferred into those programs), they meet contractual obligations and salary-ladder increases within the school systems. Our participants pay for their own credit (currently $170 for a 3-credit course) and some school systems reimburse their teachers. We recommend that the program staff explore the contractual needs of teachers with the local or state teachers association and the application requirements for credit approval as early as possible in the planning. Procedures can be incredibly complex; participants should be warned that they may need pre-approval of the course if it is to be used for a salary increase.

Staff should also check with the state teacher certification office to make sure the title of the course includes all the words necessary to meet recertification requirements for both classroom teachers and special teachers who may have additional certification needs (including Continuing Education Units for some state license renewals for some school staff).

Printed Materials

Most of our recruiting procedures have been developed over the past 12 years of the Five College/Public School Partnership. Along the way, we have probably made every mistake possible - from elegant fliers that took so long to print that the deadline had passed, to illegible copy with incomplete or inaccurate information, to descriptions that intimidated potential applicants.

We are careful that all materials have all the necessary information (dates, times, eligibility, expectations, compensation, and the required application information). Partnership materials are always printed in dark-colored ink on light-colored paper (so that schools can easily duplicate extra copies).

The information is always published in the Partnership's quarterly newsletter, the Partnership Calendar, which is distributed to over 5,000 teachers and administrators in the four western Massachusetts counties (Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin, and Berkshire). That is approximately half of the school staff in the area. We also use the same text to prepare simple (one-page, duplicated) fliers for each project which we distribute at other Partnership events and mail to individuals who we think might be interested or might be able to recruit appropriate participants. All Partnership announcements are also posted on the Partnership Homepage http://www.fivecolleges.edu/partnership.

If you do not have a similar newsletter, we recommend asking the publishers of other newsletters in your community to include your recruiting information. In most states, the state teachers association has a very useful announcement section of its monthly newsletter - as do many state and regional discipline-based professional organizations such as the local NSTA affiliate.

In fact, we sometimes wonder why we bother with fliers at all. Our most effective recruiting has always been done by participants in past projects (science teachers recruiting other science teachers but also foreign language teachers recruiting science teachers). In the past few years, more than 75% of our summer program participants have reported that they were encouraged to attend by a colleague. The fliers and newsletters do have a role, of course, but they are most effective in the hands of our teacher-recruiters.

Application

We do not use separate application forms because most teachers prefer to word-process their application. We never require a vita - many teachers do not have an updated, elegantly printed version and will put off applying if they believe that is essential. The flier requests candidates to provide the following information (limited to a single page):

Letter of Support

All Partnership programs ask for a letter of support from the principal or supervisor. We believe it is important for administrators to be informed of the professional activities of the staff - and to support them. The recruiting flier describes what must be included: a description of the applicant's present responsibilities and support for the activities of the project including whatever release-days are required during the academic year. The Partnership never asks for more than two release-days for any project. Since administrators' letters are often slow in arriving, we have a pre-printed form ready to mail to the applicant stating that we have received the application but not the letter of support. Principals can write one letter of support for an entire team.

Application Deadline

The advantage of publishing an application deadline in all materials is that you have a completed roster well before the event. The disadvantage is that, if you are not full, the printed deadline will discourage last-minute applications and the "new deadline" fliers carry a subtext of "failure." Instead of a deadline, we announce that we will "review applications the first of each month and acceptances will be mailed within a week."

We also recommend accepting at least 2 applicants to a waiting list - there are always participants who have to drop out for personal or professional reasons.

Notification

The Partnership sends a personal letter of acceptance to each participant with a copy to the principal, superintendent, and if someone else wrote the letter of support, to that person as well. The letter restates the dates, times, responsibilities, compensation, expectations, and costs (e.g. college credits, parking, lunches, whatever is not covered in the budget). The last paragraph states, "Two copies of this letter are enclosed, please sign one, add your social security number and home address, and return within two weeks of receipt of this letter."

A copy of this letter is later included with the request to the business manager for stipend payments in order to provide appropriate documentation. (An initialed attendance sheet is also submitted with the request for the final stipend payment.)

A press release of the acceptance is included in the letter (and in the copies to the principal and superintendent). We have found that newspapers are interested in school success stories - but are more likely to accept them from the schools than from us. These press releases also serve as a recruiting device.

Second Letter

Either the initial letter or a second letter, if time permits, includes a map to the parking and meeting space, information about food (what is provided and/or what the costs will be), appropriate clothing (our participants collected pond water in late March, they needed sturdy boots), and procedures in case of bad weather. In short, the letter has all the information that a participant who is not an experienced institute-attendee will need to feel welcome and comfortable.