A new NBER paper, based on several years of data from the Washington, D.C. public school system, suggests that schools can dramatically improve educational quality simply by reforming their hiring processes to focus on criteria that have a proven correlation with teacher performance:
We find that several background characteristics (e.g., undergraduate GPA) as well as screening measures (e.g., applicant interview scores) strongly predict teacher effectiveness. [And yet] these measures are only weakly, if at all, associated with the likelihood of receiving a job offer or being hired. Our results suggests that there exists considerable scope for improving teacher quality through the selection process.
Significantly, the study found that raw number of years of experience—a metric often favored by teachers’ unions and administrators in setting hiring policy—had very little effect on teaching quality.
The study is still more evidence that we don’t need to choose between stagnant outcomes at low-performing schools and budget-busting spending increases. There is buried treasure in the K-12 system, if only we have the initiative to find it and put it to work.