By Tim Hodges, Gallup Research Director for Education
Graduation season is here -- the time of year when our mailboxes fill with invitations to attend commencement ceremonies and celebrate the achievements of the graduating students in our lives.
This is also the season when education leaders are making decisions that are critical to the future of our students and our schools: It is teacher hiring season. Approximately 150,000 new teachers are hired into America’s public schools each year. Every teacher is important to the success of our students, meaning the future of our schools hinges on making every hiring decision the exact right one.
As school leaders prepare to embark on this mass-hiring journey, there are four major factors they must consider:
- Always consider teacher talent: School leaders often underestimate the importance of teacher talent -- those patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior that are common in great teachers. Gallup research illustrates that teachers with strong evidence of “value added” student achievement -- meaning they help students grow during the school year -- also have unique and measurable talent to motivate, build relationships, and create great places for their students to learn. Teacher talent should play a prominent role in every hiring decision.
- Hire for the district, as well as for the school: It is important to remember that a teacher may spend an entire career working in the district, but rarely with the same principal who interviewed them for their first classroom assignment. The hiring decision is one that should not simply consider the school’s immediate vacancy, but also the candidate’s potential for a long-term career with the district.
- Look beyond teacher experience: Experienced teachers are not always more effective than those who are new to the profession. While there is some evidence that prior years in the classroom can make a slight difference, the effects of teacher experience on student achievement seem to level off after about five years.
- Advanced degrees aren’t everything: Many hiring managers sift through piles of resumes in search of applicants who have graduate degrees. While higher education certainly has its merits, school leaders should not overestimate the impact of a teacher’s graduate degree on their future performance in the classroom. As it relates to student achievement, with the exception of a few positions such as secondary math teachers, there is only a modest difference between teachers with graduate degrees and those without.
Every teacher matters. Let’s hope that our nation’s school leaders make 150,000 great hiring decisions this year. The future of our students depends on it.