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DSM USA Is One of the Best Places to Be a Teacher in the Nation

DSM USA a Top Place for Teachers

November 30, 2017

There’s the groundbreaking BLUE Contract that redefines what it means to be a new teacher in an urban school district, highlighted by a built-in, customized master’s degree — that’s free!

There are innovative STEM programs, like the STEM Academy at Hoover High and STEM Scale Up grants at Brody, Cowles, Harding and Morris.

There is rich diversity in terms of student populations as well as curricular options ranging from International Baccalaureate to Advanced Placement to Montessori to Turnaround Arts to the new Skilled Trades Alliance.

All of the above and then some set against a backdrop of a dynamic metropolitan area that’s climbing the charts on all sorts of livability indices.

Is it any wonder that Greater Des Moines (DSM) was recently named the #6 spot in the country to teach?

SmartAsset, a personal finance technology company, analyzed data for nine metrics in 133 metro areas to determine its rankings of the nation’s best places for teachers. The various data points used for the ranking includes average teacher income, income growth, employment growth, spending per student, union strength, housing costs, the graduation rate, math and reading proficiency, and the violent crime rate for years ranging from 2014 to 2016.

Four of the top 15 best places are in Iowa, leading to the state’s dubbing as “The Land of the Learned.” Cedar Rapids, Omaha-Council Bluffs and the Quad Cities join DSM on the list. DSM was ranked 15th last year.

The study noted that almost 90 percent of students graduate from high school in the metro, while the area’s proficiency score is 78 percent. The number of teaching jobs grew more than 13 percent from 2014 to 2016 in DSM.

Recent Award Recipients

A great place to teach naturally attracts great teachers, and Des Moines Public Schools (DMPS) is proud that ours include 10 recipients of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science and Math Teaching, the 2016 AP Teacher of the Year, the 2015 Iowa Teacher of the Year, along with educators recognized as the best in a wide variety of curriculum areas in recent years. Additionally, staff throughout the district have been honored in areas ranging from counseling and social work to financial management and energy efficiency.

Beyond the attractive mix of current trends, DMPS also boasts richness in terms of history, tradition and reputation. It is the largest school district in a state long admired as a leader in literacy.

Is it resting on past laurels? Hardly. By building on them, the district earned this most recent lofty ranking. Consider a sampling of district events gleaned from just a couple of recent weeks in November.

Recent DMPS Events

  • A best-selling children’s author visited three elementary schools on a Thursday and Friday and was followed into town the next Monday by the author of an acclaimed debut novel (already optioned by Hollywood) who visited three middle schools.
  • Student poets in a high school urban leadership program staged another in their series of open mic events that raise proceeds for area nonprofits.
  • Student leaders at Central Academy, who represented all of the district’s home high schools, took it upon themselves, i.e., it was no assignment, to organize a Unity Through Diversity Forum that was a lesson for the entire community, indeed, the entire nation, in civil political discourse.
  • The district announced plans for a brand new elementary school on the northeast side of the city that, upon completion, will become only the second public Montessori school in the state of Iowa. Cowles is the other.
  • A puzzle designed by a high school advanced math class was featured in a nationally syndicated column that’s edited by a district alum.
  • The annual Thanksgiving Feast at Smouse Opportunity School again drew guests from all over the community. Smouse was constructed to serve students with special needs long before establishment of any federal standards for accessibility and has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 2002.

These are only a sampling of the many feathers in the cap of the capital city’s schools, freshly ranked as the sixth-best workplace for teachers out of more than 13,000 public school districts nationwide.

Bright as they are, can the top spot be too far off?

Learn more about working in Greater Des Moines (DSM), including finding a job, an internship, professional development and more.

Michael Wellman

Michael Wellman is a staff writer for Des Moines Public Schools. He is the author of Far from the Trees: The Troubled Sons of an American Neighborhood, a finalist in the 2009 Indie Book Awards, and STUBS: A Father's Tickets to the Greatest Shows on Earth. Versus the Demons, his first novel, was named a finalist in the 2014 Indie Book Awards for Regional Fiction. He is a regular contributor to The Des Moines Register whose work has appeared in The Iowan and on Iowa Public Radio.