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Volume 20, Number 1
January/February 2004

Landing the “Highly Qualified Teacher”

How administrators can hire—and keep—the best


Applicants for teaching positions at Blue Creek Elementary School in the North Colonie (N.Y.) School District go through a grueling process. First, a team assembled from all six elementary schools in the district screens their applications, looking at their college grade-point averages, the rigor of the courses they took, their extracurricular activities, and their experience working with diverse students, among other factors. Promising applicants are then invited for interviews.

The interview process is "overwhelming" for the candidates, according to Rose Jackson, Blue Creek's principal. In all, six principals, an assistant superintendent, two or three parents, and two or three students quiz prospective teachers on instructional issues, such as classroom management strategies and ideas for using technology. And that's not all. "If we have the opportunity—we don't do it as much as we'd like—we observe the teacher or invite them to do a model lesson," says Jackson. "That's been successful for us, although it is stressful for the candidates."

The process at Blue Creek is unusually thorough. Because the district, which is located outside of Albany, attracts 200 to 300 applicants for every elementary teaching position, principals like Jackson can select from a variety of competitive candidates. In addition, the screening process eliminates the central office bottlenecks that often plague large districts, particularly urban districts, which in many cases hire teachers close to—or after—the start of the school year and have a limited pool from which to draw. Few schools conduct the intense interviews and teacher observations that Blue Creek does.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article.


For Further Information

For Further Information

M. Allen. Eight Questions on Teacher Preparation: What Does the Research Say? Denver: Education Commission of the States, 2003.

American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence, 1225 19th St., NW, Suite 400, Washington, DC, 20036; tel: 202- 261-2620.

M. Haberman, “Selecting ‘Star’ Teachers for Children and Youth in Urban Poverty.” Phi Delta Kappan 76, no. 10 (June 1995), 777–781.

R.M. Ingersoll. Is There Really a Teacher Shortage? Seattle: University of Washington, Center for the Study of Teaching and Policy, September 2003.

J.F. Kain and C. Singleton. “Equality of Educational Opportunity Revisited.” New England Economic Review (May/June 1996), 109.

J. Levin and M. Quinn. Missed Opportunities: How We Keep High-Quality Teachers Out of Urban Classrooms. New York: New Teacher Project, 2003.

E. Liu. “New Teachers’ Experience of Hiring: Preliminary Findings from a Four-State Study.” Paper prepared for the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, April 2003. Also see website of the Project on the Next Generation of Teachers, Harvard Graduate School of Education.

J.K. Rice. Teacher Quality: Understanding the Effectiveness of Teacher Attributes. Washington, DC: Economic Policy Institute, 2003. Also see the Executive Summary, available online.

W.L. Sanders and J.C. Rivers. Cumulative and Residual Effects of Teachers on Future Student Academic Achievement. Knoxville: University of Tennessee, 1996.