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3 Recruiting and Hiring Practices That Could Be Worsening the Teacher Shortage

Recruiting & Hiring

The first report on K-12 teacher recruiting and hiring from the Frontline Research & Learning Institute revealed that teacher shortages may be worsened by problematic hiring processes – including an overreliance on “word of mouth” referral sources. In fact, while only 15% of applications come from referrals, over 30% of educators are hired from those sources

Troubling as that is, the second report from the Institute uncovered a few equally troubling findings that could also be worsening the teacher shortage.

The Institute surveyed hundreds of hiring managers across the country, from school districts of all sizes and in all settings, to explore their perceptions of the teacher pipeline and the strategies they use to hire new educators. Our discoveries are published in the new report, Repairing the Leak: How “Cultural Fit” Rusts the Teacher Pipeline.

Here are three takeaways that can help you refine your strategies and mitigate negative impacts on your teacher pipeline.

#1. K-12 tends to hire local.

A wide, diverse teacher candidate pipeline may be every hiring manager’s ideal. But our survey revealed that hiring managers believe that more candidates come from local referral sources than actually do. In addition, they are more likely to hire candidates from those sources.

Recruiting more teachers from non-local sources may widen the applicant pool. But if hiring managers overlook qualified applicants and instead only look at a small subset of the available candidate pool, then the teacher pipeline hasn’t truly been widened at all.

#2. School districts have hiring processes but not protocols.

The majority (80 percent) of survey respondents indicated that their school or district had standardized the hiring process. However, only 70 percent of those with a standardized process use a specific hiring protocol to ensure consistency. Even fewer report using a quality protocol: most focus only on standardizing individual elements of the hiring process.

One key difference between a step-by-step process for moving candidates through the hiring process and a protocol or rubric to quantitatively assess and benchmark candidate quality lies in hiring managers’ confidence in their hiring decisions. With an objective protocol to consistently evaluate candidates against, hiring managers can be significantly more confident that they are identifying the best educators to bring into the classroom. Consequently, education leaders may find that they are reliably hiring better educators who are more likely to stay with the district, thus stemming the tide of teacher turnover.

#3. Cultural fit is a top priority — but undefined.

Respondents were asked to rate various hiring factors in terms of importance when making a hiring decision. Cultural fit stood out as the most important indicator, even above skills.

Respondents noted cultural fit as most important hiring factor

However, “cultural fit” is undeniably ambiguous. Prior research on cultural fit in hiring suggests that the term may mask unintentional bias in the hiring process by letting hiring managers choose candidates based primarily on “gut feeling” — not an objective or defensible metric.

Given that cultural fit is such a major component of many education leaders’ hiring decisions, and that finding new hires who align with school culture is a key part of retaining teachers, we don’t suggest abandoning it entirely. Instead, school districts should focus on defining what cultural fit means, and identifying clear and consistent methods for evaluating each candidate’s fit.

Additional Resources

What can your district do to more clearly define the concept of cultural fit and avoid unconscious bias in the hiring process? Check out this blog post on FrontlineEducation.com to find out.

Annie Grunwell - Content Marketing Specialist - Frontline EducationAnnie Grunwell

Annie is a writer and part of the award-winning content team at Frontline Education. She's passionate about learning, exploring data and sharing knowledge. Her specialties include substitute management, the teacher shortage and best practices in human capital management.