By 2010, there will be an estimated 2.2 million teacher vacancies in this country, and not enough people to fill them. Attracting and retaining teachers is hardest in poorer urban areas (where new teachers stick around for an average of only five years), and in subjects such as math, science and foreign languages. Low salaries, poor working conditions, and a lack of on-the-job training and support are cited as the main reasons for the high turnover rates.
In an effort to attract and retain good teachers, many school districts have started incentive programs. Some offer better pay to teachers willing to work in high-poverty areas or in hard-to-staff subjects. Others pay for performance, giving bonuses to teachers whose students show measurable academic gains. Still, others give perks such as signing bonuses, mortgage subsidies, and flexible work schedules. Some schools offer mentoring programs, which both encourage new teachers and help them meet the challenges of their new job.