3 high-impact ways Phoenix #1 sources quality educators — despite overwhelming barriers

‘The teacher shortage is unfortunate, but we still have to recruit the best possible teachers because our students deserve that’

As a Title I district serving a large number of children from low-income families in the under-funded state of Arizona, leaders at Phoenix Elementary District #1 (Phoenix #1) face many challenges when it comes to placing a quality teacher in every classroom … but they refuse to let those challenges affect their students.

“We recognize that we are in a severe teacher shortage that’s affecting the entire nation and Arizona ranks last in per-pupil funding,” said Jason D. Hammond Garcia, director of human resources at Phoenix #1. “The teacher shortage is unfortunate, but we still have to recruit the best possible teachers because our students deserve that. That’s why we’re trying to be very creative in building the best possible hiring process.”

Here are three of Phoenix #1’s most effective strategies for recruiting and hiring quality educators despite staggering odds.

1.   Working with higher education institutions

Knowing they can’t rely on their existing teacher candidate pool, Phoenix #1 works with various higher education institutions to prepare students for a teaching career.

“We’re really concentrating on growing our own teachers,” Jason said. “That involves offering opportunities through the Arizona Teachers Academy.”

The Arizona Teachers Academy is Arizona Governor Doug Ducey’s initiative, which partners with all three state university presidents, as well as the presidents of the Maricopa Community Colleges and the Arizona Board of Regents. Phoenix #1 hosts the largest academy in this partnership.

“We’re partnering with Northern Arizona University to grow the education program locally at Phoenix College,” Jason explained. “Students spend their first two years in the teacher preparation program with Phoenix College and the last two years with Northern Arizona University. Then, all of their placements are solely within our school district — both their practicum hours and their student teaching hours — and we recognize that experience and hire them on the salary schedule.”

These types of partnerships are key to overcoming the teacher shortage, according to Jason.

“You have to take advantage of partnerships because you’re trapped inside a box when you only work with your own resources,” he said. “When you develop these types of partnerships and share resources, that’s when you really get outside the box.”

2.   Recruiting international candidates

To further increase their candidate pool and find educators who will generate the most growth among their students, Phoenix #1 expanded their recruiting efforts beyond the United States.

“We’re really focusing on Mexico because we serve a high number of Mexican-American students, and Mexico has an excellent education system,” Jason said. “We’re happy to go directly to the source to find educated individuals who can relate to our students and who our students can relate to.”

To support this effort, Jason visited universities in Mexico to generate interest for Phoenix #1 among potential teacher candidates.

“I hit the road for three months and spoke at every public university along the border of Mexico to great welcome and interest,” he said. “It’s been very successful. It’s just one more piece of our strategy to meet the needs of our schools, but it’s a major piece.”

3.   Taking advantage of technology

Because Phoenix #1 wants to ensure they hire only quality educators despite the teacher sourcing challenges they face, they use tools and technology to reach more candidates, quickly identify and hire the best, and streamline onboarding process so they can promptly place them in front of students.

This process begins with SchoolSpring — the nation’s largest K-12 education-specific job board — which attracts more than 800,000 unique visitors each month.

“Facing this critical teacher shortage, we have to cast a very wide net,” Jason said. “SchoolSpring helps us do that.”

After developing their teacher candidate pool, Phoenix #1 uses Hire — TalentEd’s applicant tracking system — and the Educators Professional Inventory (EPI) — a teacher candidate assessment tool that uses predictive analytics to determine which applicants will have the greatest impact on student achievement — to quickly identify and hire the best educators.

“Even in the midst of this teacher shortage, we believe that it is in our students’ best interest to maintain high standards and expectations of our teachers and employees,” Jason said. “We refuse to lower the standard.”

The EPI assessment allows Phoenix #1 to maintain those standards in hiring by creating a composite score for each teacher candidate, as well as individual scores for three of four key success indicators shown to predict teacher effectiveness in research conducted by a consortium of experts in the fields of research, education, psychometrics and predictive analytics.

Breaking Barriers

Those success indicators include:

  • Teaching skills — the ability to plan for successful outcomes, create a learning environment, instruct, and analyze and adjust.
  • Cognitive ability — a candidate’s awareness perception, quantitative and analytical reasoning, problem-solving ability, and judgement.
  • Attitudinal factors — the motivation to succeed, persistence in the face of adversity, ability to maintain a positive attitude, and orientation to learning.

Hire identifies the fourth success indicator: qualifications — a candidate’s educational background, academic credentials, previous teaching positions, and career accomplishments.

The assessment has been so effective in predicting the most effective teacher candidates that Phoenix #1 uses the composite score to screen out candidates who won’t positively affect student growth.

“We require a teacher candidate to get a minimum score of 47 on the EPI to be considered for an interview,” Jason said. “We know that’s in the best interest of student achievement.”

And because of the integration between EPI and the Hire applicant tracking system, administrators can quickly identify and contact the candidates who qualify for an interview.

“It’s so wonderful to have EPI fully integrated with Hire, where it pulls in their score because that helps us prevent anyone who doesn’t achieve our minimum score from going forward to the interview,” Jason said. “And the hiring managers have a very user-friendly experience, where they can easily access candidate information and connect with the candidates we do want to move forward.”

Hire also integrates with Records & Contracts — TalentEd’s automated recordkeeping and process management solution — to seamlessly transition candidates from the application process to new hire onboarding, and get teachers in front of students as quickly as possible.

“Records has helped us decrease the amount of face-to-face time that our technicians have with new hires from a couple of hours to about 30 minutes,” Jason said. “That’s definitely streamlined the process of getting teachers into classrooms.”

The decreased face-to-face time also helps Phoenix #1 provide a positive onboarding experience to teachers, which helps them increase engagement and retention.

“Our candidates can complete their electronic onboarding ‘paperwork’ at home in their pajamas if they want to,” Jason said. “And they can complete it anytime, day or night. Records works for us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There’s no office hours.”

Overcoming teacher sourcing challenges to support student success

“We’re really utilizing technology, digital advertising and marketing with other partners to carry the message about who we are and what we’re about so we can find right-fit teachers to join our team,” Jason said. “That how we’re going to meet our goal of improving student achievement despite the barriers we face.”

Contact Jason for more information on creative teacher sourcing strategies.

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