In our Learning Journeys around the world to visit schools of all shapes and sizes, the School Growth team has discovered some valuable hiring secrets that are common among the best programs. First and foremost, they deliver on the priority of hiring well: Teacher selection and development is the most important responsibility of school leadership.
Commonly used interviewing techniques have repeatedly been been proven to be poor predictors of performance results. Typical interviews average less than 20% accuracy in forecasting top performance--structured group interviews are somewhat higher (~35%) in predicting performance but still far below what should be acceptable in a school. Like most other people with hiring responsibilities, School board members and administrators frequently overestimate the effectiveness of their interviewing prowess.
Likewise, they too often overvalue their own personal network to find new administrative and classroom leaders. Contemporary strategic hiring practices are able to generate a higher number of both active job seekers as well as passive talent that is gainfully employed but could be recruited.
Do the students in your school deserve a better talent "batting average"?
A .350 batting average will make you an MLB allstar, but it doesn't cut it for teacher selection.
To improve the effectiveness of your selection methods for teachers, focus on the data that you could use to compare a prospective teacher to the rating system used in your school to evaluate teachers. For example, what if you used a system that ranked teachers as a 1, 2, or 3, with one being the lowest level of performance (perhaps struggling with the basics of classroom management) and 3 being the highest (a professional model for other teachers to follow). You don't want to hire a category 1 teacher, and you only want a category 2 that has a good chance of becoming a 3. Consider some of these data collection steps to evaluate a prospect:
1. Watch the teacher teach! Observing substantive samples of classroom performance should be required before hiring any teacher. You might also ask the candidate to prepare a lesson plan with you as part of the interview time to demonstrate the process and techniques he/she would use to create an effective learning experience.
2. Allow the prospective teacher to observe one of the best teachers at your school and then ask him/her to compare and contrast his/her own style. Ask the teacher what evidence could be provided to support this comparative assessment.
3. Call references (1st & 2nd degree) and ask each to rate this prospect (1, 2, or 3) based on the agreed upon category definitions (This step often yields more valuable data than the live interview questions with the candidate). As the maxim goes: Past results are the most reliable predictor of future performance.
The goal is to assess a prospect's alignment with the mission of the school, the faculty culture, the academic and organizational strategies, and finally the requirements and competencies of the position. The last component (the position) receives far too much attention in the interview process while it's the misalignment of the first three that more commonly lead to problems and disruptions.
Below are a few interview questions that might provide valuable data regarding alignment:
- Would you provide a descriptive tour of your last classroom? How is it organized, what are the students doing, what do the students see, how does it feel?
- On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your enthusiasm regarding this school's mission and strategies? What evidence could you provide to support this rating?
- Everyone has their limits: What are the limits to how far you're willing to go to help a student?
- How would you describe your relationship with your previous principal? When I call him/her, which I'll do after this interview, what do you think they will say about your contribution to the school?
- What was the most recent investment of your own resources that you made to further your craft as a teacher?