Data-based hiring practices empower growing Comal ISD to find great educators, fast

‘Working with the EPI, I have found that the higher a score gets, the more likely that educator is to hold their own in the classroom’

Hiring teachers quickly is a top priority at rapidly growing Comal Independent School District (ISD) in Texas. But principals know they can’t sacrifice quality just to fill classrooms, so they rely on data to inform their teacher hiring decisions.

“Applying predictive analytics and data to the hiring process opens up a mindset that you may not have thought of as a hiring manager,” said Matthew DeLoach, principal at Canyon Middle School — one of 27 schools in Comal ISD. “I’m not only looking at resumes or listening to what references say about candidates; I’m actually looking at their ability to learn and where their teaching skills are now.”

Using the TalentEd Recruit & Hire suite of solutions — including the Educators Professional Inventory (EPI), a data-based assessment tool, and Hire, an applicant tracking system — Matthew and other district principals have access to years of research and candidate-specific insights that help perform initial candidate assessments, guide hiring choices and inform professional development.

“Using Hire, we sort out candidates who don’t qualify for a teaching position at our district,” Matthew said. “Then from the EPI data, we get those real nitty-gritty bits of information that help us say, ‘Okay, this is somebody who fits a need I have.’”

Here’s how the EPI works: after candidates complete a 100-question assessment, Comal ISD instantly receives their scores, sorted and color-coded, so principals and district leaders can quickly identify which candidates are most likely to improve student achievement. Principals can then drill down further to see how each candidate ranks in four key domains:

  1. Teaching skills — the capacity to plan, create a learning environment, instruct, and analyze and adjust.
  2. Cognitive abilities — the ability to apply teaching skills in a way that meets each individual student’s needs.
  3. Attitudinal factors — a candidate’s likelihood to sustain and persist over time within a school system.
  4. Qualifications — educational background, academic credentials and career accomplishments.

“Our principals like that they have that colored dot — just a quick reference with a score inside it — that they can hover over to get the other scores,” said Marie Kuehler, director of human resources and customer service at Comal ISD.

The principals agree that the easily accessible insight has proven valuable for identifying high-performing teachers.

“Working with the EPI, I have found that the higher a score gets, the more likely that educator is to hold their own in the classroom,” Matthew said.

The solution helps identify which candidates are less likely to succeed, as well.

“I don’t ever consider a candidate that has an outlying low score,” said Jacqueline Sundt, principal at Comal ISD’s Specht Elementary School. “I have found that when you get those candidates in, it’s very evident why they have a low score.”

Because the solution breaks down candidates’ scores in each of the four domains, principals and district leaders use their discretion to determine when a lower score may be acceptable, due to a candidate’s other strengths or ability to fill a specific need.

“Hiring managers can say, ‘I’m okay with someone who scored lower on the attitude portion because I’m a strong enough leader and we need to get kids moving,’ or ‘This isn’t the right person because I really need somebody who has the right attitude and can fit with this team,’” said Mandy Epley, executive director of human resources and customer service at Comal ISD.

Comal ISD

In addition to helping hiring managers predict future success, the EPI creates a personalized Professional Development Profile (PDP) that provides candidates with specific, actionable steps to help advance their teaching skills.

“You receive a PDP for each candidate, so if you were to hire that candidate, you have a blueprint of where they are shining and where they may need support,” Marie said. “It’s actually written to the candidate, saying, ‘You do this very well,’ and ‘Here are some things you might want to work on.’ I think that starts a great dialogue.”

Jacqueline even uses the PDP to get a better understanding of teacher candidates before they’re hired.

“I use the commentary that comes with the PDP report to help guide my questioning when I’m doing reference checks,” she explained. “If the PDP identifies an area where the teacher could improve to become more successful, I ask their previous principal a question about that.”

Overall, the EPI makes it easier for principals and district administrators to quickly and accurately predict the effectiveness of teacher candidates, so they’re sure to hire great educators for their many classrooms.

“The EPI provides a very user-friendly system where you can easily get to the data you need,” Matthew said. “And you can’t beat the free flow of data — especially when you’re trying to make critical decisions about teacher hiring.”

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