5 steps drive D.C. schools’ success in hiring diverse and effective teachers

TeachDC is a multi-stage, centralized screening process for new teachers
By: | September 21, 2021
(AdobeStock)(AdobeStock)

District of Columbia Public Schools has succeeded where many districts have struggled: retaining a diverse teaching force.

In recent years, the system has also hired more male teachers of color and retained 95% of teachers rated effective and highly effective by its internal evaluation system, according to the “Right from the Start” report by FutureEd, a Georgetown University think tank.

“The district is receiving more applications and attracting a more diverse pool of candidates,” the report says. “Most vacancies are filled before the first day of school, an improvement that is particularly striking at high-needs schools that often scramble to fill their rosters.”

The number of teachers hired prior to the end of the previous school year—so-called early hires—has increased by 71% and by 158% in D.C.’s high-needs schools since 2016-17. Early hiring has been shown to increase student learning as well as teacher diversity and retention rates.

In 2009, the district scrapped a hiring system that relied heavily on teachers’ paper credentials and the preferences of principals. The replacement, known as TeachDC, is a multi-stage, centralized screening process. Here’s are the 5 key steps in how it works:

  1. Applicants complete an online application and answer short essay questions focused on student achievement on their student achievement philosophies. They’re also asked about core values around whether all students can learn to high standards.
  2. They then participate in a phone interview with a trained and highly rated teacher, who focuses on instructional expertise.
  3. Selected candidates then advance to the “recommended” pool and may submit an audition video of their teaching.
  4. Principals and the school personnel committee then choose candidates for interviews and any school-specific selection processes.
  5. Principals and school committees select candidates to hire.

To alert individual schools to the top candidates, the district has created an A+ to C composite index that rates how each candidate scores on each component of the screening process, including their preference for teaching in high-poverty schools.

The school system has also been improving the user experience of the hiring process for job candidates and school leaders. The TeachDC online portal school leaders use to view candidates’ information has been upgraded and the district is sharing more information about each candidate with building administrators.

Principals can even “save” candidates to a personalized page and attach notes to candidates’ profiles. They can also see which candidates have “liked” the vacancies at their schools.

The district’s teacher recruitment team also provides one-to-one support for candidates with regular check-ins by email, text and phone calls throughout the application process.