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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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How Charter Schools Handle Hiring Teachers

Bob Lenz

Co-founder and Chief of Innovation, Envision Education, Oakland CA

Finding high quality, mission- and vision-aligned teachers is critical for any school or school system. Since Envision Schools have redesigned the high school experience for students and teachers, the process of finding the right match is even more important and complex.

Teacher candidates presenting their project design.

Credit: Bob Lenz

Over the years, we have struggled to find the appropriate balance between deep vetting of candidates and creating efficiency in the hiring of about 20-30 teachers each year for our growing network of schools. In addition, we have established a few non-negotiable values into our hiring process:

  • Principals hire the teachers
  • Teacher and students need to have input in the hiring process
  • The support, or central, office coordinates and does the initial vetting of candidates through application and certification and phone interviews

We researched several innovative approaches. Two stood out as exemplary: the New Leaders for New Schools (NLNS) selection process and the High Tech High (HTH) Bonanza Days. Both organizations have highly collaborative and rigorous initial vetting processes that lead to a pool of strong finalists. Both organizations have innovative and similar processes for evaluating the finalist. Since HTH is a very similar network of schools to Envision, we decided to model our process on the HTH model.

After going through an initial screening process, teacher candidates spend a day at HTH: interviewing with students, faculty, and administration, as well as teaching a demonstration lesson, and developing a project in a group of candidates.

With that model in mind, we developed our hiring process and call it Envisioner Day. About 15 candidates participate at a time, and the day lasts about three hours. We have found in follow up surveys that the process has excited candidates about working at an Envision School, and they feel that they have a clear picture of what it means to be an Envision teacher. On the hiring end, we have been able to get a full picture of their potential for success at one of our schools.

Ben Daly, at HTH, gave us great advice before we launched our first Envisioner Day. From this and our own thinking and experiences, here are some points for why we do what we do:

  • Hiring is the most important job we all do. If you don't have time to hire great people, think about how much time you're going to spend working with not great people.
  • Think about how to get students involved in the hiring process (the more, the better).
  • Students develop maturity, thoughtfulness, and an understanding of what the school is "all about" by participating in hiring.
  • Students do not need to be coached at how to interview. They can develop this together and on their own. Some adults have a tendency to hover over student interviewers and should be dissuaded from doing so.

We are excited about our new, innovative process for hiring great teachers. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to our friends at NLNS and HTH for their willingness to share their process. We continue to explore options for our hiring process.

What processes does your school or school system use to hire excellent teachers? How do you think Envision might improve on our process? We look forward to your ideas on this!

Bob Lenz

Co-founder and Chief of Innovation, Envision Education, Oakland CA
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