Hire, Train, & Retain Great Teachers
"The best ways to improve a school are hire better teachers or make the ones you have better. Great Principals do both!" - Dr. Todd Whitaker
Research demonstrates over and over that a great classroom teacher is the single greatest determinant of student academic success, followed by a great principal. We also know that students that are classified as "at-risk" need great teachers more than anyone. However, research from schools in turnaround across the United States shows that they often have the least experienced and least effective teachers, the highest percentage of lateral entry and initially licensed teachers, the lowest percentages of teachers with advanced degrees and National Board Certifications, the highest percentages of classrooms without a certified teacher, the highest teacher turnover rates, the highest absentee rates, and the least experienced and least effective principals. Most schools identified as being in "turnaround" or receiving state intervention for failing school composite scores, as measured by student achievement and accountability measures, are high-poverty schools. This is often a vicious cycle of educational poverty and harm that further extends the achievement gap without ever giving some students hope of being able to be on grade level with peers due to lack of educational opportunities for high-quality learning from highly-effective teachers and school administrators.
"A great classroom teacher is the single greatest determinant of student academic success."
America is Facing a Teacher Shortage
- A great classroom teacher is the most important factor to student success.
- The best two ways to improve a school is (1) hire great teachers and (2) make the teachers you have in your school better.
- The attrition rates of the most effective teachers ("Irreplaceables - Top 10-20%) is almost the same as highly ineffective teachers.
- Teachers don't fear change, they fear change without support.
- Great principals treat all teachers like their best teachers.
- Great principals recruit, hire, train, support, motivate, and retain great teachers!
Recruiting and Hiring Great Teachers
Recruiting Great Teachers
Here are a few tips to help you find the best teachers:
Market your school. Being willing and able to market your school means having the ability to share what’s happening inside the school building with businesses and outside partners—who in turn may have the ability (and willingness) to provide assistance and support the school may need. Great teachers want to be at great schools. Promote the wonderful things that are happening in classrooms, with parent groups, and within the community at your school. Post on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram to appeal to any new teachers looking for a great school. See if your school can be featured in a local newspaper, weekly magazine, or other medium that may attract possible teacher candidates.
Create partnerships. Many colleges and universities offer teacher preparation programs. Often, college students need to complete practicum hours or an internship to graduate from the program. Allow these vibrant, enthusiastic student teachers to complete their work at your school and develop positive working relationships with program coordinators. Nurturing these kinds of relationships will help you attract new teachers who are looking for their first jobs.
Attend job fairs. Job fair events appeal to large numbers of prospective teachers. Reserve a space and set up a table with brochures, pictures, awards, and student crafts to show that your school is a superb place to work. Inviting current teachers to assist with mini-interviews also charms potential hires.
Hiring Great Teachers
To hire the right new teachers, carefully design a selection and hiring process using the following steps:
Put together a hiring committee. Send out invitations to staff who might be interested in joining the committee. Invite parents from your parent-teacher organization or similar group to participate in the process. While your participation in hiring will remain crucial, this team will be instrumental in streamlining the process and making sure your time is spent efficiently.
Review résumés closely. Look for essential qualifications and experience.
Schedule an initial interview with each candidate. Invite other classroom teachers and
stakeholders to participate.
Invite several candidates for a group interview. Give candidates a professional reading, and ask them to share their thoughts in response. Through group interactions, you’ll get snapshots of how your candidates would fit in with your existing team.
Schedule a shadowing. Candidates follow teachers to observe the classroom environment, the school’s culture and climate, and the instructional rigor.
Have each candidate submit a lesson plan. With your team, review the instructional plans. Then give feedback to the candidate. Ideally, you’ll deliver this feedback in person so you can observe a candidate’s reflection process.
Schedule a demonstration lesson. Have candidates teach their submitted instructional plans to a classroom of stude
“Great teachers have high expectations for their students, but even higher expectations for themselves.” - Todd Whitaker
Training and Supporting Great Teachers
Todd Whitaker's "What Great Teachers Do Differently: 17 things that matter most"
1. Great teachers never forget that it is people, not programs, that determine the quality of a school.
2. Great teachers establish clear expectations at the start of the year and follow them consistently as the year progresses.
3. Great teachers manage their classrooms thoughtfully. When they say something, they mean it.
4. When a student misbehaves, great teachers have one goal: to keep that behavior from happening again.
5. Great teachers have high expectations for students, but have even higher expectations for themselves.
6. Great teachers know that they are the variable in the classroom. Good teachers consistently strive to improve, and they focus on something they can control: their own performance.
7. Great teachers focus on students first, with a broad vision that keeps everything in perspective.
8. Great teachers create a positive atmosphere in their classrooms and schools. They treat every person with respect. In particular, they understand the power of praise.
9. Great teachers consistently filter out the negatives that don’t matter and share a positive attitude.
10.Great teachers work hard to keep their relationships in good repair to avoid personal hurt and to repair any possible damage.
11.Great teachers have the ability to ignore trivial disturbances and the ability to respond to inappropriate behavior without escalating the situation.
12.Great teachers have a plan and purpose for everything they do. If plans don’t work out the way they had envisioned, they reflect on what they could have done differently and adjust accordingly.
13.Before making any decision or attempting to bring about any change, great teachers ask themselves one central question: What will the best people think?
14.Great teachers continually ask themselves who is most comfortable and who is least comfortable with each decision they make. They treat everyone as if they were good.
15.Great teachers have empathy for students and clarity about how others see them.
16.Great teachers keep standardized testing in perspective. They focus on the real issue of student learning.
17.Great teachers care about their students. They understand that behaviors and beliefs are tied to emotion, and they understand the power of emotion to jump-start change.
“Great teachers focus on expectations. Other teachers focus on rules. The least effective teachers focus on the consequences of breaking the rules.” - Todd Whitaker
Todd Whitaker's "What Great Principals Do Differently"
(1.) It’s the people, not programs. A school’s degree of excellence is perceived from the quality of its teachers. Administrators have two choices: hire new teachers or improve the current ones.
(2.) Who is the variable? Good teachers blame themselves when students do poorly on quizzes and tests and constantly search for ways to improve their teaching, taking a high degree of responsibility for their classes. Applying this standard to principals, effective principals take the attitude that they are responsible for everything that happens in their schools. In response to a query about who is responsible for school climate, ineffective principals placed responsibility on the faculty or simply the teachers. “The more effective principals responded, ‘I am’” (p. 16). Effective teachers and effective principals have high standards for themselves.
(3.) Treat everyone with respect, every day, all the time. The importance of teachers treating students with respect and principals treating staff and students with respect cannot be overstated.
(4.) The principal is the filter. Principals set the emotional energy level of teachers and students through many different means. While lying is not condoned, it is essential that principals selectively choose what information and attitudes to share with the staff and students, especially when the principal is angry or frustrated. A principal’s goals should be to squash negative attitudes and encourage enthusiasm for school among the staff and students.
(5.) Teach the teachers. One of the principal’s most important tasks is to help teachers improve their instruction and rapport with students. Usually a good assumption is that teachers already are doing the best that they can and would do better if they knew what to do.
(6.) Hire great teachers. As a principal, set your standards high: look for educational leaders rather than applicants who would fit in with the non-leadership of the current staff.
(7.) Standardized testing. Standardized tests are a reality, at least for the foreseeable future, for public schools and a small but increasing number of private schools. The principal can encourage the staff to work together for the good of the students regardless of how they feel about the tests.
(8.) Focus on behavior, then focus on beliefs. While ideally everyone in the school shares the same beliefs on issues such as the best teaching and classroom management techniques, there are usually a few staff members whose past negative experiences or simple fear of the unknown cause them to resist change. When change is needed, avoid philosophical arguments. Rather, focus on the desired behavior. Teachers’ beliefs are not as important as their actions, and with practice in new methods, their beliefs will likely come around as well.
(9.) Loyal to whom? Principals often have a choice to make when hiring a new teacher: Should they hire someone whom they feel will be loyal to them or hire a teacher who is talented but obviously strong-willed? What is in the best interests of all students, all teachers, and for the school? A strong-willed teacher may be difficult to handle, but his or her loyalty to the principal is secondary. What is important is getting the most talented teacher in the classroom. These are not easy choices to make, but the question of loyalty is clear: The principal must act in the best interests of all students and staff for the good of the whole school.
(10.) Base every decision on your best teachers. Each high-achieving teacher in the school is a treasured resource, one that should not be wasted. Principals should ask for input before making decisions that affect the staff, surveying them afterward for feedback. Ask these valued staff members to model any school improvement idea because they are already respected by their peers. Rather than waste time with trying to convert the resistant or mediocre teachers to new ways, let the “superstar” teachers lead them. Principals are warned not to ignore their best teachers but to always seek-out and showappreciation for their contributions. These teachers can bring much energy and creative force to bear on any school improvement plan.
(11.) In every situation, ask who is the most comfortable and who is least comfortable. The implementation of ideas that causes some teachers to feel uncomfortable may be good, especially if they are ineffective teachers. However, if the effective teachers are uncomfortable, the plan is poor and should not go forward.
(12.) Understand high achievers. The effective teachers in the school are rightly seen as sources of creative energy and power that can launch any school into an improvement mode. But how do principals protect this precious resource? The high achieving teachers in the school are just that – they desire to help and support everything and everyone, and taking responsibility is their automatic response to any request for help. Don’t ask them to do things other teachers can do.
(13.) Make it cool to care. When individual teachers or even an entire school staff support an apathetic, actively negative attitude toward students, it is a daunting challenge to change the situation.
(14.) Don’t need to repair – always do repair. They are on alert for the feelings of others, and in the case of effective principals, they have a great deal of knowledge about their staff’s families and interests. Engaging in constant repair, even when things are not obviously broken, is a way to keep school relationships strong.
(15). Set expectations at the start of the year. This is the best time for the principal to set forth school-wide classroom management expectations. Bringing up this subject in an effective and positive manner will set expectations at the beginning of the school year, and make it easier for the principal to discuss these issues with teachers if any problems do occur.
"America’s schools are losing too many of their best teachers." - TNTP Irreplaceables
Teacher Retention: return on Investment
“A recent management study revealed that 46% of employees leaving a company do so because they feel underappreciated; 61% said their bosses don’t place much importance on them as people, and 88% said they do not receive acknowledgement for the work they do.” - Jack Canfield
Three Main Causes of Current Retention Practices of “Irreplaceable” Teachers
Principals make far too little effort to retain "Irreplaceables" or remove low-performing teachers.
Poor school cultures and working conditions drive away great teachers.
Policies give principals and district leaders few incentives to change their ways.
To combat the real retention crisis and create the profession that teachers deserve, education leaders should make retention of “Irreplaceables” a top priority and strengthen the teaching profession with higher expectations.
5 Ways Principals Can Keep More “Irreplaceable” Teachers
Start the School Year With Great Expectations
The best teachers want clarity. Use meeting or orientation time at the start of the year to rally teachers around a clear and specific definition of excellent teaching and a set of goals for making the school a better place for learning. Then, with the teacher, set individual goals aligned to that vision. Tell teachers that you will observe them frequently and that you will be honest when they are falling short. Be clear that ineffective teaching is not an option
Recognize Excellence Publicly and Frequently
Don’t let success be a secret. Set aside 5 to 10 minutes in regular meetings to publicly celebrate teachers who have done exceptional work in the classroom or achieved a notable milestone with their students. Congratulate them and tie what they’re doing to the school’s goals and vision of great teaching. Don’t praise everyone every time; nothing demoralizes Irreplaceables more than false praise for mediocre or poor performance.
Treat Your Irreplaceables Like They Are Irreplaceables
Make it hard to leave your school. List the teachers who are most critical to your school’s academic success and spend time with them. Observe them at work and offer regular feedback. Get to know their interests and development needs, help them access resources, and give them opportunities to grow their careers and increase their impact. Invest them in the school by involving them in decision-making, and make sure other school leaders treat them well, too.
Start Having “Stay” Conversations by Thanksgiving
Many teachers use the winter holidays to think about what’s next. Block off time after Thanksgiving to talk to your Irreplaceables and rising-star teachers about continuing to teach at the school next year. Tell them that they are irreplaceable and how much you want them to return. Ask them about their own interests and concerns, and if they are considering other options, ask what you can do to convince them to stay
Hold the Line on Good Teaching
Schools that refuse to tolerate poor teaching keep more of their top teachers. Inevitably, some teachers will struggle, despite good intentions and hard work. Be honest with them about their weaknesses, give them regular feedback and support, and set reasonable limits on how long they have to show significant improvement (months, not years). Make sure they don’t get mixed messages from other school administrators or coaches. However difficult it may be, do not allow unsuccessful teachers to linger.