Developing effective teacher selection committees

Amy Turner, principal of Copeland Elementary School (grades 2–5) in Huffman ISD[1], uses a unique approach to develop teacher selection committees on her campus. As a new principal, she found herself responsible for filling an unusually large number of vacancies.

She called a family member for guidance and was pointed in the direction of a very successful, seasoned principal in the Dallas area who suggested using a book study to prepare her teacher interview committee. From this, Turner was inspired to implement the innovative process and has worked with the resulting committee for the past three years. 

Developing an inclusive process

Being a new principal, Turner felt the need to connect with existing staff as she sought to fill campus vacancies. During the fall of her first year, she sent an e-mail to all teachers to solicit volunteers who were interested in participating on the selection committee. The only requirements were to be willing to participate in a book study during the fall semester and be able to help with interviews during the summer, if available. About 25 percent of her staff volunteered to participate in the process.
Each volunteer was given a copy of Six Types of Teachers: Recruiting, Retaining, and Mentoring the Best by Douglas J. Fiore and Todd Whitaker. The book is intended to sharpen the reader’s ability to hire better teachers, improve those  already on campus, and retain top quality educators.
About every two weeks, Turner met with the group to discuss one to two chapters. Discussions centered on comparing and contrasting activity on the campus with best practices described in the book. At the end of each meeting, the group brainstormed interview questions that aligned with characteristics of a great teacher as well as campus goals and school culture.
Turner said she had participated in interviews in the past and the practice had been to only ask team leaders or department heads to sit in on the committee. Typically, no instructions or training were provided. In contrast, her approach of accepting all volunteers empowered other teachers who might not have ever had this opportunity. 

Positive outcomes realized

When the hiring season started in the spring, the committee began their real work. According to Turner the results were extremely positive. Benefits of the new approach were apparent, including increased staff buy-in, improvement in the quality of interview questions, more efficient processes, and most importantly, the quality of new hires increased.
Buy-in—During the fall semester, as the book study progressed, a sense of unity developed among the group. Other teachers who had not signed up to participate became interested in the process and were impressed by the participating group’s comments as their understanding of the purpose grew.
Quality of questions—The interview questions developed by the team were designed with a goal in mind. The committee sought to find not just a replacement for the resigning or retiring teacher, but a high-quality replacement. The new questions produced a depth of information that allowed the committee to reduce the number asked, resulting in a more efficient process. The committee also identified the “look fors” or desired response to each question to assess the quality of applicant responses. As the interview progressed, the team analyzed the potential of each applicant. 

Committee feedback

Because everyone participating in the interview process had participated in the book study as well as the creation of the questions, details of what to expect from the process were clear. Team members felt the new model took less time and that they were able to obtain a more thorough understanding of applicants. Improving the efficiency in this manner freed up more time for the committee members to focus on instruction. 

School culture

Overall, this process has improved school culture. The relationships that were built through this hiring process, not only among the interviewers, but with the interviewee, has contributed to this change. The process has resulted in committee members having a sense of ownership in the success of new hires. 

The role of HR

Turner credits Shirley Dupree, the district’s executive director of human resources, for the success she has experienced with the implementation of this process. Dupree has supported Turner’s unique process from the beginning. Instead of determining that things needed to be done the way they've always been done, she listened to Turner’s idea and helped along the way by vetting applicants and helping find candidates for critical shortage areas. This collaboration has paid dividends not only in the quality of applicant that Turner has secured but in an improved retention rate of teachers on her campus.

Looking into the future

When Turner originally began this process, she was principal of Huffman Intermediate School, which served grades 4–5. This year, the district merged her campus with Copeland Elementary, which now serves grades 2–5. Turner plans to expand the committee to include grades 2–3. This time around, she's going to have a teacher from the original cohort lead the process. She plans on participating, but intends to empower this experienced teacher to prepare the new committee members.

[1] Huffman ISD is a commuter district that serves 3,300 students on the northeast side of Houston and has four campuses: Ben Bowen Early Childhood Center (PK­–1), Copeland Elementary School (2–5), Huffman Middle School (6–8) and Hargrave High School (9–12).


Education field struggles to attract millennials

There are 80 million multi-tasking, tech-savvy, social-media-loving adults born between 1982 and 2004 that we commonly refer to as millennials. This unique generation will make up 50 percent of our nation’s workforce by 2020 and 75 percent by 2025.

Research from the Center for Talent Innovation shows 85 percent of millennials believe it's important to give back to their community through their work. Teaching is one of the more benevolent career options to pursue, yet millennials are not entering the education workforce at any promising rate.

The prestige factor

Currently, the education field is being filled in large part with the bottom two-thirds of each graduating class. The top third—the highest achieving college students—don’t consider teaching to be a profession worth pursuing.

Third Way, a Washington, D.C-based public policy think tank, surveyed high-achieving undergraduate students and found that 50 percent of these students believe teaching has become less prestigious in the last few years.

Most respondents consider education as one of the easiest majors and see it as a profession that average students choose. Consequently, one of the primary problems the field faces is determining how it can attract the over-achieving, motivated, and ambitious millennials.

Lagging behind

Generally speaking, the teaching profession—and more specifically, its pay structures and retirement systems—have not changed much in more than 40 years. These systems no longer meet the needs of new graduates, and they appear to be driving high-achieving millennials into other professions that have more innovative practices.

For example, nursing, law, and medicine have changed in how employees are trained, promoted and compensated. Education has not matched the efforts of its competing sectors, effectively pushing away high-achieving millennials and allowing for mediocrity in a profession that requires eminently talented individuals.

Millennial teachers want to be paid and promoted like other professionals. They look for programs like student loan relief and portable retirement programs that don’t require 10 years of service to benefit from.

Professional growth and development

Many millennials are looking for careers that provide vertical growth and opportunities to improve and learn. Some perceive careers in education as providing limited chances for career advancement. Those who want to leave the classroom and advance to the administrative ranks feel promotions only come to those with the most years of experience rather than the most qualified.

For the teachers who want to stay in the classroom, both financial and professional opportunities are lacking—and they often feel as if their ideas and opinions are ignored. While other 21st century professionals enjoy the freedom to grow within their careers at a pace based on their abilities and performance, teachers are still expected to wait their turn for meaningful advancement opportunities.

Individual districts can address these concerns by recruiting the best teacher for a position, encouraging qualified teachers to seek administrative promotions. For teachers who want to remain in the classroom, giving them the ability to take on more responsibility within their school, like coaching and mentoring new teachers, would be equally as effective.

Teaching is often seen as a stable career, but millennials want more out of their careers than a steady paycheck. They want to invest time acquiring the skills and knowledge they need to grow both personally and professionally. They support the idea that a career doesn’t stop after accepting a job offer. 

According to a recent Forbes article, approximately 65 percent of surveyed college graduates stated that the most influential factor in their current job was the opportunity for career development. Forbes reported that the best training programs are rich learning experiences that tap into employee interests, passions, and career goals. Millennials want coaches who will help them grow and succeed.

A survey by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) found that less than half of new teachers rated their teacher prep and training as very good, with 33 percent feeling unprepared for the first day of school. To address this, districts and even principals could offer better mentoring programs. 

Performance-based rewards

Many policies blindly treat teachers as interchangeable pieces. The ability to recruit, prepare, and retain high-quality public school teachers requires updating existing practices. In recent years, as many as 99 percent of teachers received satisfactory annual reviews. This demonstrates a disregard for teacher quality and shows that almost all teachers are treated as equally valued, regardless of aptitude, effort, and success. While this system may have been acceptable to previous generations of educators, millennials are not drawn to a profession that willingly turns a blind eye to lower quality and ignores top performers.

As T-TESS rolls out, Texas districts have the opportunity to meet the needs of millennials seeking encouragement and coaching. The teaching profession must adapt as millennials flood into the workforce. Districts should look for other opportunities to update practices for the recruitment, retention, and compensation of teachers, which pay dividends in both the short and long term.

Platforms for safer teacher-student communication

Technology is becoming more and more of an integral part of our schools in a variety of ways and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. One of the elements of education that has shifted from old-fashioned to modern is how educators are communicating with their students, particularly outside of class.
Only a decade ago, if a student forgot their reading assignment for the night, they were left with only a couple alternatives—frantically search for a classmate with the assignment or go to school unprepared for class the following day. In this modern day and age, students can simply text, send a message through a variety of social media platforms, or contact their teacher through virtually endless other online mediums to get the assignment required.
This communication can be vastly beneficial for those who use it properly, but it also can be used in a number of iniquitous and inappropriate ways. State investigations into teacher-student relationships are at a record high, with 207 cases opened by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) in the last 11 months. The ease with which ill-minded teachers can communicate with children is a major contributor to the rise of inappropriate conduct during recent years.
Companies like Remind101 recognized the correlation between the unrestrained communication between teachers and students and the increase in inappropriate relationship cases and developed technology they hope will reduce and limit those interactions.
Remind101’s app, “Remind: Fast, Efficient School Messaging,” allows teachers to send messages, announcements, and files to their students. Both district administrators and parents are allowed access to view these interactions, so there is a high level of accountability and transparency embedded in the app’s design.
Mary Ellen Conner, the director of personnel services at Dayton ISD, employs the use of the Remind app in her district with great success.
“The remind app works well because it has a way to log messages to and from teachers,” she said. “An administrator can have viewing rights to all of the classes on campus.”
Conner said her district enforces specific guidelines when using the app.
“All teachers are required to let an administrator have viewing rights to their Remind accounts,” she said. “If they have a social media page, they are required to have an administrator who has managerial rights to the social media account.”
Rules for use of social media practices are outlined in TASB HR Services' Model Employee Handbook (available to members in myTASB). Sample guidelines include limiting communications to matters within the scope of the teacher’s professional responsibilities, copying the student’s parents or guardians on all messages, and prohibiting employees from knowingly communicating with students through a personal social network page.
Another commonly-used group messaging platform is SchoolWay. With more than 580 districts in 42 states participating, the app is one of the fastest-growing communication tools nationwide. In addition to providing monitored teacher-student messaging, it also serves as an extension of the district homepage when alerting students and parents of school closures and other larger-scale events. Coaches can notify athletes of practice cancellations and other relevant information for events happening outside of school hours.
The key to facilitating effective teacher-student communication is monitoring and documenting the interactions between them. Requiring all teachers to use an approved group messaging platform like Remind or SchoolWay keeps communication on topic and to the point.
Technology is a privilege that can be used as an effective tool to promote appropriate and productive communication between educators and learners. Make sure your district is using it the right way by considering the provisions in the Model Employee Handbook and using safe, transparent messaging systems. 

HR Extras

Certification changes effective August 28, 2016

District should take note of several State Board for Educator Certification rule actions, which are summarized below, that became effective August 28, 2016.

The first, found in 19 TAC Chapter 230, sets the rules to implement provisions of SB 2205, which imposes a limit of attempts on any certification examination. After September 1, 2015, an individual may retake the test up to four times and SBEC may approve an additional attempt based on demonstration of good cause. Details regarding good cause are outlined in the rules. In order to take the exam using the waiver, an individual must file timely with TEA and pay a non-refundable fee of $160.00. TEA offers a useful FAQ regarding this action: Educator Certification Examination Retake Limit FAQs.

Amendments to 19 TAC Chapter 232 address hardship requests for individuals who failed to renew their certificate by its due date.  The criteria for a hardship exemption includes a catastrophic illness or injury of the educator or an immediate family member and military service of the educator. The amendments also added an instructional course on the use of automated external defibrillator (AED) and suicide prevention training to the list of courses that may be taken for continuing education credits. 

Providers of continuing professional education (CPE) should be aware that Chapter 232 now requires retention of activity records for a period of seven years after the activity is completed. The record must include a list of attendees, the date and content of the activity, and the number of clock-hours.

Rules specific to the military community have been consolidated into Chapter 234, which will help streamline future rulemaking. This new chapter implements recent legislation that allows military service members to substitute experience in a particular trade for the licensure requirement and waives the licensing and application fees paid to the state for military service members, spouses, and veterans.

The principal standards in Chapter 241 were completely revised to align with the Commissioner of Education’s principal appraisal standards. The focus of the new standards include school culture, leading learning, human capital, executive leadership, strategic operations, and ethics, equity, and diversity. Principal preparation programs and state certification examinations will need to incorporate these standards.

New TRS-Care surcharge in effect

Beginning Sept. 1, 2016, districts that hire retirees will find it easier to determine the amount of the required health insurance surcharge. The TRS-Care surcharge is now a single, uniformly applied rate of $535 a month. The amount reflects the average surcharge paid by approximately 4,000 retirees. This change was adopted as a resolution by the TRS Board in February. Previously, districts were required to pay a variable rate determined by the plan in which the retiree had enrolled.

Additional information regarding the processing of TRS surcharges is addressed in the April 2016 Q&A—How do we process TRS surcharge deduction if we require our retire-rehires to assume the cost?

Inside HR Services

Sixth Annual Texas Education Human Resources Day

Governor Greg Abbott has declared October Human Resources Awareness Month. In the press release announcing the recognition, the Governor said, “Across our great state, human resources professionals play a vital role in businesses, organizations, and government agencies. Through the wide range of vital services they provide—recruiting new talent, ensuring compliance with labor laws, educating Texans about health and safety, providing ethics training and more—human resources professionals are invaluable assets, not only to their employers, but to our society as a whole.”

For the past five years, the Governor’s office had also proclaimed a day in mid-October as Texas Education Human Resources Day. While the Governor did not designate the day this year, the Texas Association of School Personnel Administrators has declared October 12 as Texas Education Human Resources Day. 

HR Services is preparing a sample board resolution and a certificate template that can be used to honor your HR staff. An email will be sent to our primary contacts, superintendents, and information officers as soon as these are complete.

Watch your mail for HR Services membership invoices

Membership renewal invoices were sent to program contacts in August. Our membership year runs from Oct. 1, 2016 to Sept. 30, 2017. Be sure to renew your membership and process payment by Oct. 1 so you don’t lose access to critical resources including the HR Library, DataCentral, and the Model Employee Handbook, to name a few.

Superintendent survey last call; District Personnel Survey opens

Be sure to submit your district’s Superintendent Salary Survey by Sept. 9, if you haven’t yet participated. Contact us at to get your survey password—it’s different than your DataCentral login.

Check your e-mail inbox for the District Personnel Salary Survey or download a copy. The annual survey, which includes teacher pay, was sent to our district contacts on Sept. 1. This year we’ve added several new jobs, including benefits specialist, middle school registrar, and parent liaison, plus school districts with more than 10,000 students will see even more new jobs. The survey deadline is Oct. 7.