Missed Opportunities: How We Keep High-Quality Teachers Out of Urban Classrooms

November 07, 2003


Highly qualified candidates are applying to teach in urban school districts. Why are too few getting hired?

It's been 10 years since TNTP published its first-ever research and policy report, Missed Opportunities. At that time, teacher shortages in urban districts were assumed to be caused by a dearth of qualified applicants. But as we worked in district offices, we discovered that was not true. 

The problem was that district staffing systems were impossibly dysfunctional: Applicants were treated poorly, hiring took months and offers sometimes arrived the same week school began. 

Missed Opportunities put data behind that problem by investigating teacher-hiring patterns in four districts.

Key Findings:

  • Late deadlines for teachers to announce their intention to depart made it difficult for schools to figure out their hiring needs for the new school year.
     
  • Teachers union transfer requirements often stalled hiring by giving existing teachers the first pick of openings before any new teacher could be hired.
     
  • Late budget timetables and inadequate forecasting left administrators unsure about which positions would be funded.

Many districts adopted our recommended reforms for hiring the best qualified candidates long before the school year begins. Ten years later, in districts like Memphis and Washington, D.C., schools now start the year with strong teams in place, and student achievement is improving.


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