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The Top 3 Takeaways from the National Absence & Hiring Trends Report

Recruiting & Hiring

How do you measure a year? You might measure it in daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee — but the Frontline Research & Learning Institute prefers to measure it with quantitative metrics (and not just in terms of 525,600 minutes.)

The 2017-18 National Absence & Hiring report is here, hot off the presses and chock-full of insights. This year’s annual report is bigger and more detailed than ever before, with a three-year look-back at hiring, employee absence and substitute activity data from thousands of K-12 organizations across the country.

So, what are some of our top takeaways from 11 million job applications, half a million job postings and 51 million employee absences?

The Top 3 Absence & Hiring Trends

Takeaway #1: Fill rates are falling, but not because teachers are absent too often.

Fill rates for teacher absences

What does this mean for you? Quite simply, low fill rates are caused by a substitute shortage. But the real problem isn’t that substitute pools are too small; it’s that substitutes just aren’t working as much. All the recruitment strategies in the world won’t solve the shortage if new substitutes rarely take jobs. So, consider ways to improve substitute engagement.

For example:

Takeaway #2: The teacher shortage is getting worse.

Average number of jobs posted per school district

For most districts, the teacher shortage is nothing new. But our data shows that it’s steadily getting worse — and it’s not likely to relent any time soon. The annual report revealed that although K-12 organizations across the country are posting more certified positions, fewer and fewer applications are being submitted for these jobs. As a result, district administrators are obliged to recruit from ever-shrinking applicant pools.

What does this mean for you? It’s crucial to keep this trend in mind, especially when it comes to your recruitment strategy. Soon, very few districts will have the luxury of waiting for job-seekers to find and apply to their open jobs. Engagement is the name of the game; you will need to proactively reach out to the most qualified educators and invite them to apply to your district.

On the other hand, having a smaller applicant pool to hire from also means that it would be wise to take a close look at your district’s strategy for supporting new teachers. Coaching and mentoring (and a thoughtful approach to providing personalized, relevant learning opportunities) will help your new educators be as effective as possible in the classroom. And as a bonus, you’ll likely see higher retention rates — so you won’t have as many empty positions to fill in coming years.

Takeaway #3: Districts are hiring faster.

Average number of days to fill a teacher’s job

Finally, our data shows that school districts are filling jobs more quickly — despite receiving fewer applications. The jury is out on why the “days to fill” metric has changed so dramatically. Maybe it’s simply due to school districts finding ways to make their hiring processes more efficient. Or, perhaps it’s because administrators are keen to make the first offer in a tight labor market. After all, if you aren’t confident that more qualified candidates will apply, you’re more likely to take what you can get early in the hiring season.

What does this mean for you? Either way, it’s important to look at your own hiring process and see how it stacks up. If neighboring districts hire at the speed of light, you could be losing out on top candidates. Job-seekers simply won’t wait forever for a response. In addition, you will want to be sure that your application process provides plenty of insight into a candidate’s suitability for the role. That way, you’ll have confidence in your hiring decisions, even when timelines are tight.

In Conclusion

Lower fill rates, fewer applications for open positions — it all comes down to the difficulty of finding educators to work as either substitutes or full-time teachers. There’s no question that education leaders have a tough road ahead. Navigating these shortages will require innovative strategies to recruit, engage and retain educators, and it’s crucial that administrators make engagement and outreach a cornerstone of these initiatives.

Annie GrunwellAnnie 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.