Show Them the Mission: A Comparison of Teacher Recruitment Incentives in High Need Communities


  • James Shuls will share all data and coding for replication purposes. The authors would like to thank Martha Melendez and Charlie Belin for their assistance. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for their insight. A prior version of this article was presented at the American Educational Research Association's annual meeting in New Orleans in April 2011.



Most public organizations use both materialistic and idealistic appeals to attract valued employees, with the latter being particularly important for difficult jobs. Teaching in high poverty communities is one such job, though none have studied whether successful high poverty schools such as the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) schools make relatively greater use of public service appeals in teacher recruitment. In education, we identify these materialistic and idealistic appeals as teacher-centered and student-centered incentives. Teacher-centered incentives are those that appeal to a teacher's desire for higher compensation or advancement opportunities, whereas student-centered appeals attempt to attract teachers with a public service mission.


We compare the use of teacher-centered and student-centered appeals in teacher recruitment by the universe of KIPP networks (n = 33) and neighboring traditional public school districts (n = 34), each serving disadvantaged populations. Coders record personnel website use of four teacher-centered appeals (including salary and benefits) and four student-centered appeals.


Chi-square tests show that KIPP schools make less use of teacher-centered appeals, especially monetary compensation, and more use of student-centered appeals in teacher recruitment.


Supplemented by fieldwork, findings suggest that appeals to mission may work better than merit pay in recruiting effective teachers for high poverty schools.