In order for your child to receive the education he is entitled to, you need to know how your school system chooses and evaluates its teachers.
A district may have award winning physical facilities, the most expensive books and the latest hot-off-the press innovative programs, and the smallest class size, but if it does not have good teachers, than your child’s education is in jeopardy. Good school systems know this and spend a great deal of time and effort recruiting and hiring the best teachers available.
These systems appoint a committee consisting not only of administrators but of teachers and parents who have been trained to recognize the qualities they want in a teacher who would enhance the educational program in their district.
The first step the committee takes is to screen the applications of a large pool of potential candidates. They then do an intensive evaluation of the group who survived this screening.
The committee holds personal interviews with the remaining candidates and reviews their references. This review often involves talking personally to the person who wrote the reference. In the case of teachers who are recent graduates, the committee inquires about the program they were trained in, its educational philosophy and the quality of the professional staff.
When a tentative rank-ordering of the candidates has been made, the committee’s next step is to start with the top candidate and to observe her teaching. The committee members have been trained to do this well. They understand that this is the most crucial step in the whole process because a teacher may talk a good line and tell the committee what it wants to hear, but have no idea how to translate what she says into working with children in the classroom.
A trained observer understands a great deal about the teacher by just looking around the classroom. Of all possible things to emphasize what does she choose? Is everything teacher-generated with no evidence of what the students are doing? Are all the desks placed in such a way that the children cannot communicate and work with each other let alone with the teacher? Is the teacher so afraid of children and of losing control that she requires complete silence and no movement?
In watching the teacher with the class, the observer has the opportunity to note how she disciplines, how she takes into account different learning styles, how she uses cooperative learning lessons, how she presents the curriculum and in general, how she functions with the group before her. This information can only be obtained by observation, not by a verbal interview.
This process results in hiring the best teachers available to teach your children and is absolutely essential.
Not all school systems give rigorous, objective teacher recruitment a high priority. In some places, it is not what you know, it is who you know that counts. Those systems often have an unspoken but understood policy of interviewing and employing only those candidates with political connections. As a result, many outstanding candidates are eliminated from consideration.
The children suffer the consequences of poor teaching if less capable teachers are hired. When this happens, the recruitment process is rarely blamed, rather the children are blamed for lack of intelligence or the parents are blamed for lack of involvement.
For your children’s sake it is important for you to know how teachers are chosen in your district. Since many of these decisions are made over the summer, now is the time to find out.