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2018 Look-Back: A Year of Research, Data and Insights for Education Leaders

Employee Absences

New Research on the Teacher Shortage and Hiring Practices

In 2018, we released our Leak in the Pipeline report series on teacher recruiting and hiring practices that may be worsening the teacher shortage.

In part one, the research uncovered a potential hiring bias towards “word of mouth” candidates. Specifically, while only 15% of job applications come from referrals, over 30% of educators are hired from those sources

Percent of Teachers with Active Certifications

The data also revealed that approximately 1/3 of all educators abandon their positions for other teaching jobs within just 3 years. One has to ask — are we hiring the best-fit teachers with the most potential for success (and retention)?

Following on the heels of the first report, the second report, Repairing the Leak, pointed out an additional bias: hiring for “cultural fit” — an often-ill-defined concept that could be masking unconscious bias in teacher hiring.

In our survey, cultural fit was ranked one of the most important factors in teacher hiring – even higher than teacher experience or teacher training. Yet many districts lack a clear definition for measuring what cultural fit actually is.

Perceived Importance of Hiring Factors

Added to that – fewer than 10% of respondents expressed full confidence in their recruiting and hiring strategies to yield the best available applicants. Clearly there is room for improvement, and rooting out unconscious hiring bias could be a key area of improvement for school districts.

Read the Report 

Additional Resources

Confidence in Hiring During Uncertain Times
What are the numbers saying — and how can you improve?
Learn more

Exploration of a Strategic Approach to Human Capital Management

With growing teacher shortages and teacher burnout, school district leaders are turning increased attention to their human capital management strategies. But many lack a framework for how to bring a data-based approach to this important area.

The Institute’s report, Balancing the Equation: How Talent Data Can Lead to Better Decision-making for K-12 Leaders, explores the rich history of policy and practice around data usage and applies the lessons learned to a strategic vision for data-driven human capital management.

Read the White Paper 

Additional Resources

K-12 Human Capital Management Journey: A Free Assessment
How far along is your journey?
Find out now

Annual Report: National Absence & Hiring Trends

Our popular annual absence report was expanded this year to include both absence and recruiting and hiring data.

Based on millions of records from Frontline Absence & Time and Frontline Recruiting & Hiring, the report revealed many interesting insights.

One of particular note: although employees requiring a substitute were absent less often during the 2017-18 school year, fill rates continued to fall — in part because substitutes worked fewer days on average. In fact, nearly half of all substitutes did not work at all.

Average # of Absences per Employee


Average Fill Rate

Lower Fill Rates

% Non-working Substitutes

Average # of Days Worked by Substitutes

These unfilled classrooms resulted in a loss of approximately 850 million instructional days nationwide throughout the school year.

Read the Full Report 

Additional Resources

Why Substitutes Work in Your District (or Not) — and What You Can Do About It
The Center for Research and Reform in Education at Johns Hopkins University used Frontline Education’s data to explore substitute teacher preparation and working patterns in greater depth.

Read the results

Elizabeth Combs

Elizabeth Combs began her career as an elementary school teacher and Director of Administrative and Instructional Technology at Patchogue-Medford School District before moving to Imperial Software Systems, a professional learning services company, where she eventually served as President. She then held positions at My Learning Plan Inc. as President and Chief Strategy Officer. With degrees from the State University of New York at Geneseo and Teachers College, Columbia University, Ms. Combs has a passion for leveraging technology to support educator growth and over two decades of experience developing solutions rooted in best practices for professional development.