Effective candidate prescreening results in higher-quality teaching staff
- The Los Angeles Unified School District is seeing success in using a centralized approach to screen potential teaching candidates on measures such as college GPA, a sample teaching lesson, interviews and professional references, Chalkbeat reports.
- A recent study of the practice found that teachers who scored higher on the screening metric tended to have a bigger impact on student achievement, scored higher on district evaluations after hiring, and were absent for fewer days.
- Principals still play a vital role in the hiring process because finding the right fit between teachers and schools is important, however, proper pre-screening can lessen the number of effective candidates principals have to cull through and result in better hires.
While mentoring and professional development can improve the effectiveness of almost any teacher, the initial selection of good teachers is the first step in improving student academic achievement. The importance of this step is sometimes overlooked in the rush to fill vacant teacher slots, but effective hiring practices need to be established well before the new school year begins. For school districts, this decision impacts not only student achievement, but school budgets and student safety, as well.
A Calder Center study points that the economic important of the hiring new teachers. Salaries account for the largest percentage of most school budgets, and hiring a great teacher is often cheaper that removing an ineffective one. However, determining which teachers will be effective can be difficult. As the Calder Center noted, “the credentials that are generally used to determine employment eligibility and reward in-service teachers tend to be only weakly correlated with teacher effectiveness, meaning that required state employment screens and in-service financial rewards are unlikely to lead to productive labor market sorting. When a teacher is hired, districts are making what may turn out to be a large, long-term financial commitment; it is sensible to make sure that the recruitment and selection process works well. “
Pre-screening processes, such as those used in Los Angeles, can be an effective way to weed out weak teachers. But this process also necessitates good interviews and requiring candidates to present a sample lesson, a step some school districts omit. The input of other teacher-leaders in the school can also help in determining good candidates. And principals need to play a huge role in the process because they will work with these teachers day to day. The use of analytics can also help determine the best teacher candidates.
School districts need to carefully examine current hiring practices to make sure they are getting the right results. As Jonah Rockoff, a Columbia University associate professor of finance and economics who studies teacher hiring systems, noted “The worst mistake a principal can make is hiring an ineffective teacher and exposing a classroom of students to someone who does a bad job.”