Teacher Evaluation: WHY It Matters and HOW We Can Do Better
An in-depth look...
Is hiring at the top of your mind right now? If you want the most outstanding teachers in your classrooms, it should be.
Research shows that the strongest candidates are hired early, and are less likely to tolerate hiring delays. They prefer to withdraw from the hiring process in order to accept positions in districts with faster hiring processes. This leaves slower districts with a less-qualified applicant pool to choose from over the summer.
Candidate quality should be enough of a reason to hire earlier, but there are other advantages as well. You can avoid the last-minute hiring crunch, lessen the impact of teacher shortages and ensure that new hires have plenty of time to prepare for the first day of school.
To be competitive, your district should hire all new teachers by May 1st at the latest. That’s an achievable goal, as long as you have the right processes in place and visibility into your district’s data. The most important number to know is how many teachers you will need to hire. To determine this, look closely at the following:
How many vacancies have you had in the past few years? What’s your historical turnover rate? It’s unlikely that every teacher who plans on leaving will notify you before they’re committed to another job. However, looking at retention and vacancy data from the past few years should give you an idea of how many positions you should plan on filling for the upcoming school year.
How many teachers are retiring or resigning? Keep track of how many teachers are eligible to retire by subject area and school building, and have teachers notify you as early as possible of their intent to retire or leave. Some districts offer an incentive to educators who submit retirement notifications by an early deadline, such as December 31.
Tip: it’s easier to collect retirement and resignation notices with an automated online system.
Do you have any new academic programs or schools that will need to be staffed? Also, consider if any new buildings opened over the past few years that might skew your historical data. Gather input from principals and other departments in the district (Academics and Business, for example.) By working closely with others across the district, you can be sure that you have a clear picture of any plans that may require additional staffing.
The more confident you are that you have an accurate forecast of your staffing needs, the earlier you can begin to hire new teachers. To take it a step further, consider partnering with local colleges and universities to offer early commitments to education students in their final year of coursework, and student teachers who have shown aptitude. Some districts who take this approach have agreements with students in place as early as October.
This is not the same as offering the students a contract or any sort of binding agreement. If it were, it’d just be called early hiring. Instead, it’s putting a structure in place to build relationships with new teachers early, before they start looking for jobs in earnest. The important part is getting your district’s foot in the door and being the first to make an impression on teaching candidates. The early bird gets the worm (or, as the case may be, the best educators.) But if you can’t offer early commitments, hire earlier. And if you can’t hire earlier, hire faster.
The early bird gets the worm: if you can’t offer early commitments, hire earlier. And if you can’t hire earlier, hire faster.
You know that employee engagement is key. An engaged educator is less likely to leave the district, and more likely to go above and beyond to ensure student success. But too often, engagement is seen as something to focus on after school is back in session, well after new hires have formed an impression of your district’s operations. This can leave a broad gap between the excitement of accepting an offer and the impact of any employee retention strategies in place — especially if they were hired months before, in March or April.
A fantastic experience early on sets the stage for engagement as the school year goes on, and helps your new hires feel welcome. It starts all the way back at the application stage: making it easy for job-seekers to apply, so their enthusiasm for your district isn’t curbed by avoidable application-related frustrations. Communication is key as well — most hiring managers don’t have the time or means to communicate with applicants, so even an automated email or visibility into the status of their online application will have a positive impact. If there are any delays in the hiring process, it is crucial to continuously communicate in order to keep top prospects engaged. Plus, your district’s reputation will benefit, and candidates will tell other talented teachers in their network about their experience.
Onboarding, too, is a great opportunity to set the stage for lasting retention. If you can set up Welcome Days to help new hires meet their colleagues, the start of the school year will go much more smoothly. The same goes with mentoring or coaching relationships: starting over the summer shows that your district is committed to each teacher’s success, and they’ll have the chance to prepare more effectively for the first day of school.