A new report found that Washington, D.C. public schools have improved hiring practices over the last 12 years thanks to new, innovative hiring practices.
According to the report released this month by FutureEd, a think tank at Georgetown University’s McCourt School of Public Policy, the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) has improved its rate of hiring well-qualified teachers over the last 12 years with the help of the Teacher Education and Compensation Helps (TeachDC) hiring system. The “Right From the Start” report shows that TeachDC has allowed DCPS to improve its ability to identify the candidates best suited for its schools and hire them well before the beginning of the school year.
In 2009, DCPS launched the TeachDC system, a multi-stage, centralized screening process designed to help schools hire the best candidates. This pilot program replaced a hiring process that focused on teachers’ resume credentials and individual principals’ preferences. The new report from FutureEd suggests TeachDC has delivered on its goals to hire qualified teachers ahead of each new school year.
With the TeachDC system, D.C. schools can fill teaching positions early, avoiding last-minute hires and helping acclimate teachers to schools’ environments earlier, according to FutureEd Associate Director Phyllis Jordan.
“Teachers can be hired, and they can spend the summer getting to know their school where they are going to work,” Jordan said in a phone interview with The Hoya. “There are still a lot of school districts out there who are scrambling to get teachers at the last minute. This is particularly a problem in high-need schools.”
TeachDC helps DCPS streamline the search for teachers, placing candidates with their “best match” schools through an extensive screening, application and selection process. All candidates are required to submit an online application with several essays, and those who pass the first stage then receive an interview and submit an audition video of their skills in the classroom, according to the FutureEd report.
TeachDC also encourages earlier hiring, as DCPS pays up to $2,500 to teachers hired by July 1 in critical shortage areas, including English-as-a-second language, special education, world languages and math, according to the FutureEd report.
Theodore Roosevelt Senior High School, D.C.’s third-largest high school, is currently focused on hiring teachers representative of the entire student body, especially by increasing the number of Latinx teachers, as half of Roosevelt’s student population identifies as Latinx, according to Roosevelt principal Justin Ralston (GRD ’17).
“I think from what we have heard from our students, our staff and even data outcomes with how our students are performing, it is absolutely critical that we work to be able to diversify our staff to be representative of our school community,” Ralston said in a phone interview with The Hoya.
While TeachDC gives D.C. schools a common starting point for hiring, principals have the flexibility to develop a system that highlights their schools’ priorities, which can range from increasing racial and ethnic diversity to decreasing turnover rates, according to the report.
At Roosevelt High School, administrators have focused on staff retention amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Ralston.
“What I have experienced throughout the pandemic is that we really need to make sure that we are being as supportive as possible to our teachers and staff,” Ralston said. “Retention is always something on top of my mind because I think it plays a huge role in school performance.”
Historically, DCPS teachers have faced a 25% turnover rate, compared to a 16% rate nationwide. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated factors that typically contribute to higher turnover rates, including heavy workloads and lack of professional support, according to the DC Policy Center.
The TeachDC model allows the school’s principal to work in conjunction with a hiring committee and other teachers in order to hire candidates that are a best fit for the school, according to Ralston.
“I take great pride in the fact that every single hiring decision I’ve made as principal at Roosevelt has been 100 percent the recommendation of what came out of our personnel committee,” Ralson said.
In addition to focusing on representation, FutureEd indicates in its report that schools will receive more funding to make changes after the pandemic. This funding should be allocated to refine the teacher hiring system, according to Jordan.
“D.C. can continue to refine their process,” Jordan said. “What we are hoping is that other school districts take a look at this and see if they can adopt something similar.”