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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Education

Study sheds light on Spokane Public Schools’ hiring practices

In response to a yearslong study, Spokane Public Schools will tweak its hiring practices.

The district will start the hiring process earlier, focus more on student teacher development, clarify hiring requirements and ask that letters of recommendation be sent directly to the district.

The changes were made after a study examined hiring practices in the district. The results were presented at this year’s South by Southwest education conference in Austin, Texas.

Much of what the study found supported what the district already was doing.

“Our sense was right, but now we have data to back it up,” said Mary Templeton, director of certificated personnel. “If you hire correctly, the teacher should be effective in the classroom.”

For instance, the district always has put a high emphasis on letters of recommendation, said Tennille Jeffries-Simmons, chief human resources officer.

The district believed, and the study found, that letters of recommendation were better indicators of a teacher candidate’s ability and readiness than GPA.

Letter writers were less honest and more measured in their evaluation of a candidate because the candidates were able to read the letters, Jeffries-Simmons said. The new policy says letters of recommendation must be sent directly to the school district.

The district also is starting the hiring process in January instead of late spring. Some of the best teacher candidates were being recruited away, Jeffries-Simmons said, because the process took too long. Previously, some hiring wasn’t finalized until September. Additionally, Jeffries-Simmons said the district has started signing letters of intent with “promising” candidates still in college. Both these measures are, in part, a response to a shrinking pool of teacher candidates.

“We are all acutely aware that there is a limited pool of excellent candidates,” Jeffries-Simmons said.

Finally, both Templeton and Jeffries-Simmons said the study showed the importance of student teachers. Roughly 30 percent of new hires were student teachers within Spokane Public Schools. The district will be more involved in student teacher placement and will study what makes a student teacher experience effective.

The study was a partnership between the University of Washington and Spokane Public Schools and examined hiring trends over the course of three years. The partnership represents a larger effort by the district to connect education researchers with practitioners. The study was funded by the National Center for Analysis of Longitudinal Data in Education Research.

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