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TNTP Re-imagine Teaching
Case Study

Memphis: Transforming Teacher Hiring


Shelby County Schools (formally Memphis City Schools)

Project Dates

2004 – 2007, 2010 –2015


Memphis, Tennessee

Area of Work

Teacher Recruitment, Hiring and Staffing

Hiring a teacher is one of the most important instructional decisions a school can make. Yet when TNTP started working with Memphis City Schools (MCS) in 2004, the district was struggling to hire enough talented teachers by the first day of school.

In 2004, Memphis faced multiple barriers to hiring great teachers. The district was attracting neither the volume nor quality of applicants it needed. The hiring season began late and moved slowly, discouraging qualified candidates. And when teachers did make it in the door, they had little say in the school where they’d teach.

The result: On the first day of school, 10 percent of teacher vacancies remained unfilled, leaving more than 10,000 students to begin the year with substitutes.

From 2004 to 2007, TNTP helped MCS begin reshaping its approach to recruitment and hiring. We built the district’s first recruitment website and established systems to track applicants and vacant positions. We also helped MCS assess its hiring practices and craft a strategy to remove the policy barriers preventing smarter hiring.

In 2010, we launched a more involved partnership: We helped the district dramatically expand its applicant pool, streamlined the hiring process, and trained principals to hire strategically. As the applicant pool grew—from 1,500 interested applicants in 2010 to 8,800 in 2014—we also helped district leaders improve staffing policies globally.

When MCS merged with surrounding Shelby County Schools in 2013, we helped the new district adopt the progressive teacher staffing policies already in place in MCS. Today, Memphis is a national exemplar for effective recruitment and staffing practices. Hiring a teacher in Memphis can start as early as January and takes about 17 days from posting to selection—and every single hire is made with the mutual consent of the teacher and principal.