Things to Remember During the Teacher Hiring Season

— The Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement
Updated on May 5, 2014

Teacher hiring is about to move into high gear in schools and districts throughout the country. In this month's newsletter, we offer research-based advice and resources designed to help schools and districts find, employ, and place effective and qualified teachers. Of all the factors that schools control, teacher quality is the one that most affects student achievement (Darling-Hammond, 2000). In fact, researcher Eric Hanushek (2002) found the difference in annual student achievement growth between a student taught by an effective teacher and one taught by an ineffective teacher can be as much as one grade-level equivalent. And the results are cumulative; the impact of an effective teacher on a student's achievement is still measurable two years later regardless of the effectiveness of the intervening teachers (Sanders, 1998).

Research indicates that effective teachers share many of the same characteristics, regardless of school resources or student population. They are fully certified, have in-depth subject and pedagogical knowledge, and several years of experience (Rice, 2003). The "highly qualified teacher" provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act codify many of these attributes, requiring all teachers to hold a bachelor's degree, be fully certified and licensed, and pass a rigorous exam or otherwise demonstrate competence in each subject they teach.

To find teachers like these, schools and districts must engage in a thoughtful and focused hiring process. They need to recruit widely and make job offers selectively. We offer four specific suggestions for school and district leaders to consider during the teacher hiring season.

Start Early

The New Teacher Project, a New York-based organization that works to improve teacher hiring, studied four large urban school districts and found that lengthy hiring processes drove away many candidates (Levin & Quinn, 2003). The four districts received five to seven times more applications than needed to fill open positions, but the authors say as many as 60 percent of the candidates withdrew when the hiring process dragged on into late summer. Levin and Quinn also claim the teachers who pulled their applications were significantly more qualified; they had higher grade point averages and were more than 40 percent more likely than those who were finally hired to have a degree in their teaching field.

"Districts need to hire early and effectively to capture the talent that is out there," says Jessica Levin, chief knowledge officer of The New Teacher Project. The organization recommends that schools and districts finish all hiring by May 1, and certainly no later than June 1. To reach that goal, the group advises school districts to begin taking the following steps:

  • Ensure that all teachers give early notification of resignations.
  • Work with teachers unions so that transfers and hiring can be done more quickly.
  • Create earlier and more predictable budgets.
  • Revamp human resources departments to establish greater efficiency.

Levin and Quinn identify some school districts that have had a measure of success instituting reforms like these. In 2001, the Rochester City School District in upstate New York was able to place all new teachers by June by offering significant financial incentives to potential retirees if they announced their decisions by March 1. Rochester also gave hiring committees greater responsibility in selecting teacher transfers. In Clark County, Nevada, principals can now interview new teacher candidates after April and consider them along with teachers requesting transfers.

Other reforms provide local control and more efficiency. The Memphis City School District in Tennessee is planning to institute a Web-based system that will allow principals to view the qualifications of applicants and choose those they will interview. "We're always behind the eight ball because the system we have is highly inefficient," the Memphis district's human resources director said of the old paper-based application system (Kumar, 2004). "... You know it doesn't sound very interesting when you talk about revamping human resources. People want to talk about curriculum and students, but what we do has a direct effect on the classroom."

Resources: The New Teacher Project helps states, districts, and schools recruit and retain better teachers.

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