Attracting Talent to Providence: The Challenge of Teacher Recruitment

Providence Public School District (PPSD) made significant progress last year in ensuring that most classrooms were fully staffed by the start of the 2020-21 school year (see the previous brief in this series for more detail). Despite more positions to fill and higher-than-usual retirement numbers during the pandemic, PPSD hired earlier across the spring of 2020 and significantly reduced vacancies by the start of the school year. The district also hired more teachers of color – a high-priority item given the large disparity between the racial/ethnic make-up of PPSD teachers and their students. Going forward, the district must contend with ongoing areas of challenge, particularly in filling open positions for English learner (EL), math, and science classrooms.

Accelerated hiring timelines appeared to contribute to this year’s success. However, continued progress in PPSD depends upon not only maintaining an early hiring process but also developing a large and qualified pool of candidates from which principals can choose. This brief looks at applicant recruitment. Specifically, we ask: To what extent does PPSD attract a sufficient pool of well-qualified applicants to its open positions and what can be done to improve the pool going forward?


Key findings

  • The PPSD applicant pool is small compared to peer districts and relatively local, with the lion’s share of candidates coming from Rhode Island.
  • Reflecting national shortage areas, recruitment challenges are particularly acute for EL teachers and teachers in math and science.
  • This year, PPSD attracted more external candidates and more out-of-state candidates than in past years.
  • Racial/ethnic diversity remains low among job applicants, and the rate of growth in new hires of color is not sufficient to meet PPSD’s goals.
  • Average salaries are high relative to other states, but not for new teachers and not compared to other RI districts.


  • Revitalize a recruitment and media campaign that includes state/district efforts as well as outreach from principals and teachers.
  • Continue to post jobs early and extend posting windows. Most jobs in the district remain open in the system only for a 7-day window.
  • Expand the pool by strengthening pipelines for teaching assistants, cultivating unsubmitted applications and prior year applications, reaching out to certified teachers not in the workforce, and leveraging local teacher education providers.