Navigating a Maze to the Classroom

Although most urban school systems desperately need good teachers, the bureaucracy of their hiring process is driving talented candidates away. That’s the conclusion of a new report "Missed Opportunities: How We Keep High-Quality Teachers Out of Urban Schools" from something called the New Teacher Project.

The writers agreed to keep the four school systems they studied a secret in exchange for access to the labyrinth of the hiring process in those systems. However, as a member of the DC school board says, "it didn’t take too many brain cells to figure out" that one of the four is Washington. DC is legendary for the infinite layers of bureaucratic layers that mess up the workings of the school system and the city government in general. And this sounds like DCPS:

In each city, Levin and Quinn encountered "poor design and execution by [school] district human resources offices, a cumbersome application process, too many layers of bureaucracy, inadequate customer service, poor data services, and an overall lack of urgency."

Other impediments to hiring good candidates include union rules which over-protect the rights of teachers to transfer, principals delaying informing the system of their vacancies as a way to avoid taking teacher trying to move, and union supported policies that set a late deadline (or no deadline) for teachers to announce their retirement/resignation plans.

Of course the unions, the NEA and AFT, say it isn’t their fault, but I think the conclusion by the DC school board member that "the situation cannot be fixed unless school systems restore trust between teachers and administrators" is more to the point. In many school systems, the unions fear change so much that any alteration to the status quo is communicated to teachers as an attack on them by administration. If any sort of progress is going to be made on hiring – or any other area of improving public schools – teachers must abandon some of this paranoia (a little is only healthy :-) and central office needs to cut out a lot of crap that gets in the way.