I’ve written repeatedly (for instance here and here) about how the breakthrough technical innovation of Teach For America is its screening process for prospective teachers. TFA has also made some important cultural innovations but that’s a separate issue. A new study from Will Dobbie at Harvard takes a look at the technical side of recruiting in relation to student achievement (pdf). At Ed Week Sawchuk looks at the larger implications of the study.
Being able to use non-readily-observable characteristics like tenacity, perseverance, and problem-solving skills in the hiring process in a predictive way is one way to improve teacher effectiveness. High-performing (and in some cases large) organizations from the U.S. armed forces to for-profit and non-profit ventures use various screens like this – if you interview at Bellwether and you’ll get a taste of it, for instance. It’s overdue in education and it’s a shame all the ridiculous back and forth about Teach For America continues to obscure what that organization has learned over two-decades by refining and changing their practices. They recruit effectively at a wide-range of schools – there just might be something to learn there that could be applied more broadly.