Some Arizona school districts have gone high-tech in their efforts to recruit top-notch teachers: They’re using promotional CD-ROMs to lure prospects. Given the shortage of qualified teaching candidates faced by school districts nationwide, experts predict the strategy is sure to catch on in other areas of the country as well.

Deer Valley Unified School District in Deer Valley, Ariz., started placing promotional content on business card-sized compact discs about a year and a half ago, according to spokesman Timothy Tait.

“We wanted to use a method that was … faster, easier, and presented [us] in a way that people would remember,” he said.

Deer Valley officials think using new promotional methods will be critical to the district’s recruiting efforts during the next few years.

“We hired 300 teachers last year, and we estimate we’ll hire 200 more next year,” said Tait. The district is building nine schools in the next four years, two of which already are under construction.

“Frankly, it comes down to numbers,” said Tait. “We really have a huge need for teachers, and we are not the only district that’s recruiting at this kind of pace. We have to convince potential teachers that Deer Valley is the best choice, and we have to stay ahead of the competition.”

According to Timothy Crawford, manager in the Teaching and Learning division of the National Education Association (NEA), “We are starting to see people nationwide becoming aware that the teacher shortage is coming to their town, too. … As an attention-getter, the CD-ROMs can be very effective.”

Other districts have experimented with video promotions on their web sites, Crawford said, but users may have to download applications that will run the video.

“With a CD-ROM, all the applications you need are already included, and you don’t have to worry about having high bandwidth to support the video,” he said.

The idea for a promotional CD-ROM was developed in-house, Tait said. “We really try to stay on the forefront of technology. We saw a company in town that had done this, and we thought it was a great idea,” he explained.

Deer Valley started with a promotional CD the size of a business card but since has progressed to a full-size, full-length CD-ROM. That CD-ROM is now in its second version.

“Each of our 27 schools has a three-minute video on the CD, and each is written, directed, filmed, and produced by students from that school, using digital cameras and iMac DVDs [digital video discs],” said Tait. The video clips were created to allow potential teaching candidates to match up with the right campus for them.

“The videos are really creative,” said Tait. “On one, we follow the school mascot, a snake, as he winds his way around the entire campus; on another, a high school jazz band wrote and performed the background music.”

Tait said the CD-ROM includes an audio introduction from the superintendent and photos of the district looped together to form a slide show. The disc also includes live links to sites such as the city of Phoenix web page, apartment guides, and downloadable PDF files of job applications.

“The student-produced content really helps us show the diversity of the schools in our district,” said Tait. Because students play a major role in the development of the tool—from videos to music to the cover design—it also provides them with a valuable learning experience, he added.

The promotional CD is produced within the district and sent off to a company to burn copies.

“The real purpose is to address the teacher shortage and aggressively market the Deer Valley School District,” said Tait. “To help in these efforts, Discover Card gave the district $10,000 to help defray some of the costs.”

During the next four years, Tait said, the CDs are expected to help Deer Valley fill its nine new school buildings “with the best educators in the country.”

“We made about 2,000 [copies] of the CD and the cost was about $1 each, making the CDs less expensive than our paper information packets,” he said. In fact, each CD was about 25 cents cheaper than the traditional paper promotional packets.

“We’ve gotten a lot of responses, both from teaching candidates and from other schools that are interested in doing the same sort of thing to help recruiting,” said Tait.

District employees have been handing the CDs out liberally at teacher colleges, recruitment events, and education conferences. “A CD-ROM really has legs,” Tait said. “Any computer can read it, it’s compact, and people tend to pass [it] around.”

Other Arizona districts, such as Scottsdale, also have produced promotional CDs. But, Tait said, “as far as we know, we were among the first in the state—and probably the country—to go after this type of thing progressively. … [We view this as] a cost-effective way to get our message out there.”

According to a 1999 report by the U.S. Department of Education, researchers and policy makers estimate that school districts will have to hire about 200,000 teachers each year during the next decade to keep pace with rising student enrollments and teacher retirements, for a total of 2.2 million new teachers.

Links:

Deer Valley Unified School District
http://www.dvusd.k12.az.us

National Education Association
http://www.nea.org

U.S. Department of Education
http://www.ed.gov