The ongoing teacher shortage continues to be a crisis for many school systems. Most district leaders are familiar with well-known causes for the shortage like retiring baby boomers, a decrease in new education graduates and disillusionment with the teaching profession. But we wanted to dig a little deeper.

The data revealed some surprising insights into hiring practices that might actually be worsening the shortage – namely, hiring bias and “cultural fit.”

Part One: A Leak in the Pipeline

How Faulty Hiring Practices Could be a Cause of the Teacher Shortage


The first report in our series analyzes recruiting and hiring data from more than 800 school systems across 45 states. The data reveals an interesting disparity between applicant referral sources (where candidates are coming from) and who actually gets hired.

In particular, while only 15% of applications come from referrals, over 30% of educators are hired from those sources

Percent of Applicants
by Referral Source

Percent of Hired Applicants
by Referral Source

With our data also showing that about 1/3 of all educators leave their positions for other teaching positions within the first three years of teaching, it begs the question: is there a connection between district hiring practices and retention?

We use original data and a wealth of outside research to explore this question in more depth.



Part Two: Repairing the Leak

How “Cultural Fit” Rusts the Teacher Pipeline


In part one of the series, we learned that districts are hiring a disproportionate number of candidates from “word of mouth” referrals compared to other sources. This discrepancy was further validated by our survey to nearly 600 district leaders, showing that hiring managers believe more candidates come from local referral sources than actually do.

But what was even more troubling was this finding: above any other characteristic—including experience and training—hiring managers believe that cultural fit is the most important element in making a hiring decision. Very few, however, have any clear, systematic way of articulating or measuring cultural fit.

Perceived Importance of Hiring Factors

Perceived Importance of Hiring Factors

With no identified, measurable standard, we have to ask: is “cultural fit” actually responsible for unconscious bias in the hiring process?

Learn more about the research and best practices to ensure a consistent, unbiased approach to teacher hiring practices.