Leveraging Candidate Profiles to Improve Teacher Retention in 4 Steps
A recent survey of more than 1,000 districts found that nearly two-thirds of districts are reporting teacher shortages heading into the 2021-2022 school year. To plug or refill leaks in this draining teacher pool, districts are increasingly leveraging stimulus funding to enact short-term solutions such as incentives and signing bonuses. But the foundational cracks in the teacher pool and pipeline are deep, widespread and found at every phase of the teacher lifecycle. We need to reassess and reimagine the way we engage and support teachers at every stage of this journey, and we can start by looking at the candidate profiles that drive our recruitment, hiring and onboarding.
It’s estimated that one in three teachers leave the classroom within their first five years of starting teaching. This turnover results in an ongoing churn of recruiting, onboarding and coaching of incoming teachers, which costs districts time, money and academic outcomes. Developing an aligned, clear and comprehensive candidate profile is a first step toward mitigating these effects because it allows an organization to get clearer on an employee’s starting point. Even if your pipeline is shallow, using this profile to understand a new teacher’s strengths and needs helps to position your district and schools to make better hiring decisions, and to plan more intentional onboarding strategies aimed at increasing long-term retention.
Profile-based recruitment ensures organizational alignment, objectivity, and responsiveness. When used correctly, a profile will serve as a base for structured interviews, onboarding strategy, and long-term teacher development. Below, we offer four steps in designing this candidate profile:
Step 1: Identify Competencies - Start by revisiting the key knowledge, skills and mindsets that make up your ideal teacher employee. List as many attributes as you can, but boil this down to no more than eight. Seek to have your list be two-thirds functional (role-specific attributes for success) and one-third foundational (attributes for success, regardless of role). Lastly, we recommend keeping this list to eight or fewer attributes to ensure you are truly prioritizing the most important competencies. A sample list might be:
- Functional Competencies: Classroom Management, Content Knowledge, Differentiation, Lesson Planning, Virtual Instruction
- Foundational Competencies: Growth Mindset, High Expectations, Team Building
Step 2: Define Competencies - For each attribute, draft clear definitions that summarizes specific tasks and behaviors that each employee needs to perform. These should be free of ambiguity, measurable and tangible.
- Example: Team Building - Works across departments, helping colleagues outside of the immediate working group. Gathers continuous feedback on how colleagues could work together more cohesively. Responds constructively to others’ ideas and suggestions
Step 3: Determine Weights - Not all competencies may be of equal importance on day one, or you may have strong training capabilities for others. To determine competency weights, start by ranking each by how soon mastery will be needed - for example, by the first day or within the first year. Next, rank these competencies by your organization’s training capacity (experience, resources or personnel to develop an employee on the component). Use the chart below to prioritize these weights:
Step 4: Finalize Profile - Use the quadrants to determine the importance and weight for each competency to be measured within your interview rounds. Start with 100 points, and then allocate these proportionally based on where each fell on the prioritization matrix.
Altogether this profile will direct the design of a structured interview process that can be shared across schools and teams, improve your assessment of candidate readiness, and design a more intentional onboarding process based on the data you collect. Keep in mind that your profile may shift depending on community or student needs, specific roles, and resources of the district, so we recommend revisiting these competencies and weights annually.
Having a strong candidate profile is a first step toward informing and improving short- and long-term retention. If you’re interested in learning more, we hope you will join us for part 2 and 3 of our three-part Reimagine Hiring Discussion Series (July 21 and August 15) to learn and share on how to leverage your candidate profile within your interviewing and onboarding strategy.
About Daniel Johnson
Daniel Johnson is an Associate Partner at Education Elements and works with district and school teams to develop responsive, stakeholder-driven practices that improve student outcomes. In his seven years at Education Elements, Daniel has led projects in mid- to large-sized school districts across six states, and worked with state-level departments of education to lead instructional initiatives across Georgia and Kansas. He specializes in instructional readiness, strategic planning, and teacher recruitment. Daniel is a former science teacher, having taught in school systems in Mississippi and Brooklyn, NY. During his time in Mississippi, Daniel served on the school’s leadership team working with state consultants on school improvement efforts. In New York, Daniel worked for the charter network, Achievement First, working with a team of science teachers to build the network’s inquiry-based science curriculum. He holds a B.A. degree in Political Science, a B.S. degree in Journalism, and a Master's degree in Teaching. Daniel is originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan and currently lives in Washington, D.C.