Education Opinion

Providing Equal Access to High-Quality Teachers

By Matthew Lynch & Lauren O'Mara — September 17, 2015 4 min read
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Using data and technology to make it happen

Several studies show that schools in low-socioeconomic status communities often experience a shortage of qualified teachers, higher turnover rates, and lower student achievement than their higher-income counterparts. School leaders across the country also agree that securing high-quality teachers in low-income schools is extremely important but can be a challenge.

As the fourth largest school district in the nation, Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) has a geographically and culturally diverse student population. The district is home to urban, suburban, and rural schools and students hail from a variety of socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds. Some schools have populations where nearly all of the students are on free and reduced lunch while other schools are located in some of the wealthiest zip codes in the country.

In many of the district’s high-needs schools, children come to school lagging behind academically. It’s critical to ensure that these students have the opportunity to achieve at the same levels as their more affluent peers. Understanding these challenges, M-DCPS has prioritized staffing for high-needs schools and, through the use of data and technology, the district has been able to implement systems to help identify high-quality teachers and make them equally accessible to all schools.

Identifying High-Quality Candidates

As teachers play a huge role in student outcomes, hiring decisions shouldn’t be taken lightly. M-DCPS believe it’s important to arm principals with as much objective data as possible to help them narrow down the candidate pool and make more informed hiring decisions. To achieve this, M-DCPS chose to implement the TeacherMatch Educator’s Professional Inventory (EPI®), a data-driven hiring tool that uses predictive analytics to identify teachers who are most likely to positively impact student growth. The tool offers insights into candidate strengths and areas for improvement as well as their teaching skills, attitudinal factors, and cognitive ability. This data, as well as a full candidate profile and written essay responses, is integrated into the TeacherMatch IntelliGlance™ applicant tracking system to provide key insights into a teacher’s potential for success in the classroom and to help principals identify the best-fit teachers for their schools.

Equal Access to High-Quality Applicants

Previously, M-DCPS advertised open positions at individual schools. As a result, some schools received hundreds of applications for an open position while others received less than 10 applications for a similar position. This created a significant disparity since many of the district’s high-needs schools were receiving fewer applications than their peers.

To remedy this, the district utilized the TeacherMatch® system as a conduit to implement hiring process changes that would allow all schools to have equal access to high-quality candidates. One of these changes was the shift from individual school postings to district-wide hiring pools. The hiring pools are based on geography (north county, mid-county, and south county) and subject area. An applicant may apply to any and all geo-zone and subject area pools of interest. For example, rather than applying to a Math teaching position at a specific high school, applicants now apply to a job pool entitled “Math (Mid County).”

Each hiring pool collects applications regardless of whether or not there is an opening in a given subject and geo-zone. This allows the district to build a high-quality candidate pool that is available to hiring managers whenever an opening occurs. It also eliminates a candidate’s ability to apply only to the schools they are interested in. This, in turn, helps level the playing field for high-needs schools who now have access to all applicants in a given subject area pool, rather than only those who opt in to their schools.

In addition to pool-based hiring, M-DCPS implemented other strategies and processes to offer equal access to the best teachers. For example, the district created earlier hiring timelines for high-needs schools in order to allow them to attract and secure the best candidates faster. The district also began offering targeted career fairs specific to high needs schools and increased assistance and staffing guidance for principals.

The result? Administrators at high-needs schools were thankful to have access to the same pool of candidates as higher-achieving schools. M-DCPS is hopeful that initiatives to incorporate data and technology in the hiring process will not only promote equal access to high-quality candidates but also contribute to the district’s ongoing efforts to create a robust sourcing and hiring pipelines for high-needs schools.

Lauren O’Mara serves as District Director, Human Capital Management for Miami-Dade County Public Schools. In this role, Lauren focuses on strategic talent management initiatives to ensure that all students in Miami-Dade County have access to an excellent education. Lauren is a member of the Emerging Human Capital Leaders Initiative, graduate of the Broad Residency, and a former teacher. She can be reached via email at Harshbarger@dadeschools.net

The opinions expressed in Education Futures: Emerging Trends in K-12 are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.