High Needs Schools
What is a High-Needs School?The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 defines a high-needs school as “within the top quartile of elementary and secondary schools statewide, as ranked by the number of unfilled, available teacher positions; or is located in an area where at least 30 percent of students come from families with incomes below the poverty line; or an area with a high percentage of out-of-field-teachers, high teacher turnover rate, or a high percentage of teachers who are not certified or licensed.” Essentially, high needs schools require teachers because they cannot fill job vacancies or retain teachers, or they have teachers who are not qualified or who teach in subjects outside their field. High-needs schools also serve communities of higher poverty rates, where classrooms are influenced by the difficulties of their students’ lives. Most high-needs schools are located in rural or urban areas.
Teaching in High-Needs SchoolsTeaching in a high-needs school can be highly rewarding for teachers looking to make a difference. If you want to have a profound impact on people’s lives, then teaching in a high-needs school can be a very fulfilling decision. Children in these areas come from very different backgrounds and face various difficulties such as such as family, social or economic problems that can detract from their focus on education. The demands of teaching in high-needs schools can be intimidating, and it requires passion, dedication and perseverance. These schools often have stigmas attached to them that intimidate teachers. Overcrowding, higher frequencies of crime, limited resources --- it takes a great teacher to face these difficulties with a determination to overcome them. These schools need teachers. There are many job opportunities and incentives, aside from the emotional rewards, to teach in a high-needs schools. Financial aid, fellowships, housing and even loan forgiveness are available to teachers willing to commit themselves. Great teachers should never go unrecognized, not by their students, nor by the entities who are in a position to reward and compensate them for their efforts.
The No Child Left Behind ActAs part of the effort to improve education, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 makes provisions to compensate teachers who are willing to teach in high-needs areas. One provision is the Teaching Incentive Fund (TIF), which provides support to school districts that give financial incentives for teachers in high-needs schools. Under TIF, districts compete for grants that will allow them to offer compensation and incentives to attract great teachers. High-needs school districts are mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act to formulate a plan for education reform, which often includes teacher compensation funded by TIF. Therefore, if you chose to work in a high-needs school, your school may be able to better compensate you for your efforts.
Loan ForgivenessThe Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program encourages teachers to teach in high-needs schools by making them eligible for forgiveness of up to $17,500 of their Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) or Federal Direct Loans. This includes Stafford Loans, Graduate Plus Loans, and Perkins Loans. To be eligible, you must have been teaching for five consecutive, complete academic years. The school where you teach or have taught must either be eligible for funds under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 or be classified as a high-needs school by the No Child Left Behind Act. The teaching unions, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, also have resources and information about loan forgiveness. Note: as of July 1, 2010, no more federal loans are made through the FFEL program. All new loans are made through Federal Direct Loans. However, if you were issued a FFEL before July 1, 2010, your loans may still be eligible for loan forgiveness.
Teaching Corps. and ProgramsIf you’re currently a student looking to become a teacher, a teaching program could be a good option. Teaching programs offer an amazing range of opportunities to secure a job straight out of college, to train rigorously and earn your teaching credential, and to pursue your advanced degrees while teaching. The most widely known teaching program is Teach for America, an organization that places its applicants in high-needs schools where they teach low-income students for two years. Teach for America teachers earn full teaching salaries, health benefits, access to exclusive scholarships special discounts and paid teacher training. Teach For America also offers support for graduate school, as well as it’s own loan forgiveness programs.AmeriCorps is another program that offers support to teachers in high-needs schools. The NYC Teaching Fellows is an example of one such program in a specific state.
Grants and ScholarshipsMany organizations offer grants and scholarships to help fund continuing education or pay student loans as incentives to get teachers into high-needs schools. Certification Map offers a great resource that lists scholarships that are specific to education professionals. The government offers the Teacher Education for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant, which gives up to $4,000 to students studying to become teachers. Applicants to the TEACH Grant must sign an agreement promising to teach at a high-needs school for a total of four academic years. The Transition to Teaching Program is another government program that offers incentive to train and recruit teachers in high-needs schools. If you are in school and studying to become at teacher, look into what kind of resources they offer their students.