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How Charter Schools Handle Hiring Teachers

| Bob Lenz

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.

Group of teachers standing in front of stage.

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!

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Comments (15)

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Principal in the San Antonio Independent School District

Charter Schools

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I agree with the comments about charter schools and the "alternative" teachers hired to teach in those schools. If you haven't read "The Death and Life of the Public School System" by Diane Ravitch, let me suggest you read it. She goes into detail about how charter schools are not the panacea many claim they are...and I totally agree!!!

Thank you. It is good to know

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Thank you. It is good to know that i am not alone.

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I agree with Troy....and in Ohio, where we are from, many Charter Schools do not go with highly qualified teachers, where, for example, the 2nd grade teacher is also the gym teacher

As a certified teacher of 10

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As a certified teacher of 10 years, I have a major issue with charter schools hiring alterternative teachers. I, along with seven of my colleagues,were not offered new contracts this year because my administrater had recruited seven "NEW" alternative teachers. How can training classes prepare you to educate children? I have produced exemplary scores for the past 2 years as the 5th grade teacher at my former charter school. How can a alternative teacher with no experience reach the same level?

How do new teachers find charter jobs?

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I'm part of a 25 adult secondary teaching Cohort.  We're half way through our 14 month program and I would love read and report on job search tips; I observed at some Milwaukee Charters and I like what I saw.  This is a second career for almost everyone in my class, we all have at least one college degree and a few of us  are less than 30 years old.  I;ve been a manufacturing engineer for 27 years with a speciality in molding plastics.  I'm certifying in 6th through 12h grade math.

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