New hiring system makes filling teaching positions quick

New hiring system makes filling teaching positions quick

(N.Y.) Recent efforts to streamline the hiring process at one New York charter school has led to reduced turnover and an ability to fill much needed positions with highly qualified candidates in a timely manner, according to school officials.

At Dr. Richard Izquierdo Health and Science Charter School, a grade 6-12 charter in the South Bronx focused on preparing students for careers in health and science, decision-making throughout the hiring process was “clunky” and “slow,” according to one lead teacher at the school.

Previously, even something as simple as deciding whether to call a candidate could take a few days.

Leah Weiser, an algebra teacher at the school who also was charged with overhauling the hiring process, said that maintaining a central online space where all incoming resumes and interview rubrics are housed, as well as where personnel can communicate with one another and new candidates, has helped keep everyone in the loop from start to finish–something that has helped the school fill needed positions with more qualified teachers.

“I realized that our hiring practices were inconsistent, so a major change was to develop common procedures that would be followed for every candidate, including rubrics, email templates, questions to ask during phone interviews, requirements for demo-lessons, etcetera,” Weiser said. “Since automating the process we’ve been able to hire candidates more quickly, and those that are more highly qualified for the positions, because if we see someone we really like we’re able to move quickly, whereas before it was just such a slow, clunky process.”

Additionally, she said that none of the teachers hired in the year since the system was revamped has left the school. In the past, Weiser said they typically would have had at least some turnover in that group.

Studies show that high turnover rates negatively impact children’s math and language arts performance, especially among already lower-performing students and in low-income schools. Additionally, the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future estimated in 2015 that public school teacher turnover costs more than $7.3 billion per year due to a loss of investment in training new educators.

States, districts and county offices of education have all made efforts in recent years to improve teacher recruitment, training and credentialing efforts, but because of the time it takes for candidates to finish the process and get into classrooms, the progress made by many initiatives won’t be felt for a couple of years.

According to a 2016 report from the Learning Policy Institute, 87 percent of urban districts and 82 percent of rural districts in the state face a shortage of teachers—especially in subjects such as special education, bilingual education, mathematics and science. And at a health and science-focused school like Dr. Richard Izquierdo Health and Science Charter, a shortage of qualified science teachers can be an especially significant issue.

On top of their traditional studies, once students at the school reach grades 10 through 12, they are required to take career pathway courses that allow them all to be trained as emergency medical technicians when they graduate. Weiser said having that EMT training can give students an upper hand in applying to pre-med programs, or if they pursue a different path, provides them with the opportunity to work a high paying job throughout their time in college.

To help fill the gaps, Weiser said steps were taken to create a more uniform hiring process for all potential candidates. For instance, phone screening procedures weren't standardized, so there was no assurance that candidates were being provided a consistent interview experience. To change that, Weiser created a phone interview rubric, and inputted the rubric into Lever–the online applicant tracking system used by the school–so that everyone could have internal conversations about candidates, email candidates, and schedule interviews.

In addition to making the school’s hiring procedures and practices more consistent, Weiser put together a hiring committee of teachers and school leaders and trained them in using the tracking system and conducting phone interviews using the rubrics.

Ultimately, the school more than doubled the amount of people involved in hiring. Prior to the overhaul, the hiring committee was comprised of 7 people–now there are 16. Despite having more people involved in the hiring process, Weiser said the team works more efficiently because everyone has a clear role.

“We now have one designated team member who screens resumes and determines quickly whether we're interested in moving a candidate forward from the ‘applied’ to ‘phone screen’ stage,” Weiser said. “(And now) we're all able to immediately review their resume, rather than having to wait for a physical copy of the resume to be passed around, or for the resume to be emailed en masse.”

Overall, she said the new process has made it easier for the hiring team all to work together to quickly fill teaching positions with more qualified individuals.

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