Ensuring Genuine Evaluation of Teachers during Recruitment

Recruitment choices involve a significant number of incorrect decisions, leading to both false positives and false negatives. A false positive occurs when a school selects a candidate who turns out to be unsuitable once the school year commences. Conversely, a false negative happens when an applicant rejected by one school later excels as a teacher at a different nearby school.

Why do these scenarios unfold? The issue lies in a disconnect between the hiring process and the actual teaching skills teachers must utilize in the classroom. Teachers employ alternative assessments to differentiate between knowledge assessed by standard tests and that assessed by practical tasks requiring skill application in real-life contexts.

Many students excel in tests but struggle to apply the knowledge practically, and vice versa. Similarly, when evaluating teacher candidates based solely on cover letters, resumes, and interviews, the alignment with actual teaching abilities is skewed. The standard hiring process tends to favor candidates who excel in writing and under pressure but doesn’t adequately provide opportunities to showcase genuine classroom skills. 

The Impact of Incorrect Hiring

Traditional hiring methods also suffer from a lack of sufficient time investment. Typically, principals spend about one-and-a-half hours with a candidate before making a hiring decision. This is akin to proposing marriage after just a few brief dates! The alternative assessment techniques we advocate for allow for a longer evaluation period before making critical staffing decisions in a school year.

The hiring process should be a mutual exploration. As the school familiarizes itself with a candidate’s teaching abilities and personal traits, the candidate also learns about the school culture and potential colleagues before deciding on the suitability of the position. It is estimated that a hiring misstep costs around $20,000 per vacancy or $8.5 billion annually nationwide. This expense includes the cost of a new job search and retraining but does not encompass the emotional toll on a novice teacher, the disruption to the school community, the diversion of resources, and the negative impact on student performance. 

Administrators and search committees require strategies to evaluate candidates more effectively, enabling both the school and the potential teacher to develop a deeper understanding of each other. This necessitates authentic assessment methods that better predict a teacher’s performance in a real-world teaching environment. 

Evaluating Performance

When designing interviews for prospective faculty members, the goal is to create performance tasks that replicate real job situations. For instance, candidates for literacy teaching roles could simulate a one-on-one writing conference using sample student writing, with a committee member acting as the student. Special education teachers and school psychologists may be asked to interpret assessment tests, while school counselors might role-play counseling a bullying victim.

Many school districts mandate teaching demonstrations. After initial interviews, semifinalists return to conduct a class similar to their prospective assignment. The candidate receives guidance from the regular classroom teacher on lesson planning, instructional objectives, and specific student needs. The search committee observes the lesson, evaluates student learning through exit tickets, and conducts a feedback session with the candidate. 

Assessment through Portfolios

Portfolio assessment, involving actual work samples, is a crucial component of authentic classroom evaluation. During interviews, hiring committees can request candidates to present portfolios showcasing photographs, videos of model lessons, student work samples, lesson plans, evaluation reports, and testimonials from students and parents.

Portfolios can be in the form of websites, flash drives, or physical binders. Depending on the interview structure, the candidate can walk the committee through the portfolio, provide a digital copy, or leave a print version for review. 

Virtual Classroom Tours: Similar to portfolio assessments, virtual classroom tours add depth to the evaluation process. Candidates can record a brief classroom tour, showcasing learning centers, student work displays, and classroom setup to illustrate their teaching values. This offers valuable insight into a veteran teacher’s teaching style and persona.

Interactive Evaluation

Conducting interviews in a formal setting can lead to anxiety among candidates. An alternative approach, the “walk and talk,” involves a more casual setting and incorporates physical activity. Once the field is narrowed down to promising candidates, the principal can invite them to tour the school together, engage with students, staff, and parents, and observe interactions and reactions in a more relaxed environment. This exercise provides a better understanding of the candidate’s fit within the school community. 

Authentic assessment plays a crucial role in the hiring process by meeting the key assessment standards of validity and reliability. Validity ensures that the evaluation measures the intended skills—actual classroom performance in this instance. Performance assessments, portfolio evaluations, and virtual classroom tours create scenarios that closely resemble teaching situations, offering a more accurate depiction of a candidate’s potential contribution. Reliability, achieved through repeated skill demonstrations in various contexts, leads to consistent results, unveiling the true nature of a candidate’s capabilities within the school environment.