Ben Marcovitz on Teacher Hiring

WOW. This is a really good idea for teacher candidates. Ben is founder of Sci Academy in New Orleans. He writes:

I learned early on that seeing a teacher actually teaching children provided a glimpse into what no paper or talk-interview could: the comfort level with kids and material, the capacity to make split-second decisions with ease, the drive and urgency towards an objective.

What I learned quickly, though, was that this single data point provided little that helped us develop teachers after hiring. Indeed, for too many teachers I’d hired—in this school and at others before—the quality we saw in the sample lesson, however high, was the quality we were stuck with for years, despite our best attempts at coaching.

Realizing this, we started requiring two lessons instead of one, with coaching in between. I’d watch a teacher teach, write down everything I’d want to improve about her practice, then sit down with her for over an hour afterwards and lay it all on her. The usable data was incredible.

Did she seem excited by the feedback or defensive? Did she take notes? Did she ask for the feedback before I could even offer it? Did she seem skeptical when I told her about big changes that needed to happen fast? Exasperated?

But here was the key: I’d return for a second sample. We tell candidates this could be later that day, or even weeks later, their choice. Either way, we get a sample of growth instead of current ability, and, just like a slope on a graph, we can adjust our standard based on how much time has elapsed. This nearly doubled the amount of time put into each hire, but we came to hold it as sacred for three important reasons:

First, the lesson-feedback-lesson loop provides three opportunities for candidates to opt out if they do not fit with our demands for growth. Plenty of folks who might have crashed and burned in our future PD self-identify and save everyone some headaches.

Second, we found

Read Ben's whole thing here. It's great. The idea is such a win-win-win. Not only does it help the kids and staff at that school to get someone who is a better fit, it gives every teacher candidate much more specific information on what life would really be like at that particular school.

That information that is usually near impossible to get. A typical teacher candidate may ask a single question like "What does PD look like here?" and often the answer is nondescript.