Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Teacher Selection a Process, not an Event

Effective instructional leaders know that people are the heartbeat of the school. For students having adults (teachers, custodians, secretaries, nurses, and the list goes on) who are committed to working with children and youth is essential to school and student success. Education is a team effort, from time to time there may be a MVP, yet points are scored when we all work together. It matters who works in the school, their attitudes, their abilities, and what they can offer to colleagues and students. Teacher selection at its worst is a series of interviews in which someone is hired because they are breathing and have the necessary credentials. Teacher selection at its best is a process – a series of inter-related activities that gather information and insight to arrive at a decision about who will best assume the role of a teacher in a particular school. This blog goes through how each step of the process can build on the previous one. Key to this process is ensuring that information is recorded and shared. For example, why ask an applicant each step of the way what she/he is licensed to teach if the information is readily available on the application.


Keep the website up-to-date with which positions are open. Include a date that application review will occur, so potential applicants know the timeline. Make sure that current employees know what is available as they may have colleagues in other school systems that may be interested or they themselves may want a transfer. Reach out to local colleges if an opening occurs in January as December graduates are looking for jobs.


Develop a credential review so that applications are reviewed for prerequisites that research studies have associated with effective teachers such as: degree in the area being taught, verbal skills, teaching experience, student teaching, etc. This will help narrow the field. The data summary should be available to school system staff seeking to fill a teacher position.

Interview Stage – consider having two

Design a structured screening interview (each applicant for a specific position is asked the same questions) that will solicit applicants telling about their past professional practice. This can be a short 15-20 minute interview done over the telephone, by web cam or at a job fair/on-campus recruitment day. Ask 5-6 questions TOTAL about planning, instructional delivery, classroom management, assessment, and developing rapport with students and their families. The goal of this interview is to determine who should remain in the applicant pool so fewer building level interviews need to be held. Summary data of the interview should be added to the applicant’s file or database record so administrators system wide can review the applicant.

Design a structured building-level interview that asks different questions than those asked in the first interview. Likely the interview will be 45-60 minutes and will query the areas associated with effective teaching (see above). Delve into topics such as experience with working with at-risk populations, technology use, assessment usage, data reviews, and specific instructional strategies. Make sure that the data from this interview is available to other administrators. The goal of this interview is to select a teacher.

Plan for an alternative performance interview in the event the applicant did really well at a building level interview in your school district, but was not selected because there was someone better, consider using a performance interview. After all, the administrator already has data from a face-to-face interview done by a colleague. The performance interview could be asking the applicant to come prepared to teach a demonstration lesson to the interview committee or if school system rules allow, take over a classroom for 30-45 minutes. Some school systems use a performance interview as part of the process. Many more do not since this takes more time.

Reference Checks

Each step in the process narrows the applicant pool. After interviews, spend a little more time on the top 2-3 applicants. Call their references. Acknowledge if a letter was sent and ask a couple of questions such as:

  • How long and in what capacity did you work with [applicant’s name]? In the event, this was not stated in the letter.
  • What strengths did [applicant’s name] bring to your school?
  • What are areas of growth or potential for this applicant professionally?
  • Thinking of all the teachers with whom you have worked, is [applicant’s name] in the bottom 25%, middle 50%, top 25% and why.

Selection Decision

Review all the data sources, consider the school needs, and make the hiring recommendation to the appropriate person in your setting. Some school systems have an additional interview at the central office level while others extend an offer. Keep copies of the documents compiled during the selection process – you may need them if the applicant chooses another worksite or issues arise.

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