Over the next two years, school districts across the country will be receiving an unprecedented influx of short-term funding. Decision-makers may experience a natural tendency to use these stimulus dollars for one-time expenses such as instructional materials and educational technology. However, such materials – while useful for students and teachers – do not have the power to transform the experience that students have in school every day. Instead, there is a real opportunity to help equalize outcomes for groups of students most affected by the pandemic by making large-scale systemic investments in the most important school-based factor in student learning – highly-effective teachers.
Many potential investments could improve the skills and capacities of teachers in the building and promote student learning -- building more robust professional learning and evaluation systems, investing in leaders to develop stronger schools that support and retain teachers, and revamping teacher preparation programs to be more responsive to local needs. But there is also clear opportunity to build the foundation of our talent pipelines by investing systemically to improve teacher hiring.
In 2002, Ed Liu and Susan Moore Johnson wrote that teacher hiring in many school districts was “late, rushed, and information poor.” Twenty years later, this type of hiring persists – many teachers are hired after school starts, schools often face constraints on which teachers they can hire when, and most hiring happens quickly after just a cursory resume screen and interview. Evidence suggests that moving up hiring timelines, allowing schools to post positions on the open market earlier, and having robust hiring processes that give schools a clear view of a prospective candidate (and vice versa) can have large benefits for teachers and students. These efforts can improve the effectiveness of new teachers, support districts in hiring more diverse candidates, and reduce the challenge of having to dismiss teachers who do not work out. Improving hiring can also improve the “fit” between an individual teacher and the school, an underappreciated part of teacher effectiveness and a key factor in whether teachers stay in the profession.