The latest advance in teacher hiring: a way to assess how effective a teacher will be before he or she even sets foot in the classroom.
TeacherMatch, a Chicago-based company that specializes in data-focused hiring practices, claims its predictive analytical software can identify high-quality teacher candidates and help refine the recruitment process—which experts say can cut down on teacher turnover and absenteeism, and help stem teacher shortages.
The company’s most-known tool, the Educators Professional Inventory, or EPI, is designed to predict the impact teacher recruits will have on student achievement. The EPI screens how candidates respond to a 90-minute assessment and relies heavily on four “success indicators"—qualifications, teaching skills, attitudinal factors, and cognitive ability.
And now the company has teamed up with a more experienced industry leader which could bring the EPI and other tools to thousands of school districts—TeacherMatch was recently acquired by PeopleAdmin, a provider of human-resources software that the company says helps school districts improve the way they hire and manage new teachers.
“We have the opportunity as one organization to build on our innovative, data-informed solutions—and lead the way in improving human capital practices, advancing teacher effectiveness, and increasing student achievement in school districts throughout North America,” said Ron Huberman, co-founder and executive chair of TeacherMatch, in a press release. The combined company will now operate under the PeopleAdmin name. According to the Washington Post, the purchase price was not disclosed.
In addition to its recruitment software, TeacherMatch provides professional development, professional learning, and workplace-management solutions for school districts. PeopleAdmin offers tools used to recruit, track, and hire top teacher candidates—along with Inspired2Educate, a national teacher recognition program that awards money to educators who submit a story about another educator who inspired them.
PeopleAdmin solutions are used by school districts that employ a third of all U.S. teachers and serve more than 30 million students. TeacherMatch also brings 800 new clients to the fold, including four of the nation’s five largest school districts: New York City Public Schools, the Los Angeles Unified School District, Clark County Public Schools, and Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
With current teacher shortages in many areas of the country, more school districts have been turning to data to improve hiring processes and tap into new pools of prospective educators. But many remain skeptical.
Jonah Rockoff, an associate professor of finance and economics at Columbia University whose most recent research focuses on systems for hiring new teachers, said in a 2013 Education Week interview that tools like TeacherMatch’s EPI are limited and that it takes a constellation of factors to predict whether candidates will positively impact student learning. He said he believes the most useful information for determining whether teachers will be effective comes from actually seeing them teach.
“Overall, this is a good signal of districts getting on board and thinking more systematically about the hiring process,” Rockoff said. “But is there a magic formula that can revolutionize teacher hiring? I’ll believe it when I see it.”
Kate Walsh, president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, a nonprofit that specializes in teacher evaluation and workforce policies, told the Washington Post that TeacherMatch’s survey and algorithms are proprietary, so it’s impossible for her to judge whether the product is reliable.
“We don’t know whether their predictive analytics are accurate,” she said. “It might be snake oil or it might be great.”
On the other hand, school districts have reported that data-focused hiring practices have helped tremendously in the hiring process in various ways.
According to an Education Week special report story published in January, using data-driven tools helped the Shelby County district in Memphis, Tenn. predict the number of vacancies likely to open at the end of the year, and in turn, inform recruitment and staffing strategies. Meanwhile, the Deerfield Public Schools District 109 in Deerfield, Ill., used information from a variety of data-based assessments to gain evidence that 85 percent of the people it hired for the 2014-15 school year had a positive impact on students.
Tracking and analyzing data can even help with increasing the diversity of the workplace—the Cleveland school district used this strategy to increase the number of teachers of color from 25 percent to 34 percent.
“Districts are recognizing the need to adopt the most proven, innovative solutions available as hiring becomes more competitive and talent management strategically more important,” said Kermit Randa, CEO of PeopleAdmin. “Whether large or small, no district can afford today to get it wrong when it comes to hiring educators. Now they don’t have to.”
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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.