As K-12 school administrators know, finding the best talent for their schools is becoming more challenging, with fewer people entering the teaching profession and more teachers retiring. With no near-term end in sight, hiring and retaining great teachers may be problematic for years to come.

While the teacher shortage used to be confined to rural areas, it now is a nationwide problem impacting nearly every U.S. school district. For some districts, administrators have trouble filling specialized teaching positions, while other districts find it difficult to fill all positions.

According to a recent report by the Learning Policy Institute, if supply trends persist at these current lows, the annual shortfall could grow to 112,000 teachers by 2018.

Given this challenge, school administrators must implement the most effective techniques to attract, hire and retain strong talent.

Track the Data

Improving the hiring process starts with tracking the basic statistics. For example, measuring how many applicants you receive, and how many applicants get through each hiring phase, including the application, screening and interviewing processes. Tracking provides insights into which jobs are going unfilled and why.

In addition, you should track “time-to-hire” statistics to determine whether you are filling jobs as quickly as possible. These data points should include how long it takes you to fill a job and how long applicants sit in your applicant pool after they apply. Best practices suggest making an offer within 30 days or less from when the teacher applies. If you don’t, the odds of a teacher rejecting your offer increase by 60 percent.

Determine Your Focus

After gathering this data, many administrators determine they need to decrease time-to-hire in the context of maintaining strong hiring standards. To do this, you must identify the highest quality applicants as soon as they apply.

Consider this scenario: you have 10 individuals applying for an opening and three of them are strong candidates. If you take two or three weeks to identify these top applicants, the odds of filling the position in a timely fashion drops significantly. To fix this common problem, you need to identify strong applicants right away and accelerate the hiring process.

(Next page: Using data to identify quality applicants and fill in gaps)

Rapidly Identify High Quality Applicants

A resume is not the best tool for identifying high quality teacher applicants. Rather, you need a research-based assessment to identify which candidates are most likely to succeed and accomplish better outcomes in the classroom. Using an automated, analytical screening tool to do this assessment allows you to handle any number of applicants and process them efficiently.

Find and Fill the Gaps

Once you implement a research-based applicant screening system, reassess your process to determine where you have gaps. For example, look to uncover whether certain hiring managers take longer to process applications or if certain schools persistently hire low quality candidates. Having this information at your fingertips empowers you to make strategic decisions that result in better hiring outcomes.

Analytics in Action

Michelle Holland, Leadership Prep School principal, put this analytics method in practice and experienced excellent results. Specifically, the Frisco, Texas school implemented a research-based applicant screening system to identify, hire and develop teachers most likely to positively impact student achievement.

The system simplified the school’s hiring process by providing greater insights into applicants’ backgrounds and how they could align with the school’s mission. The assessment helped the administrators determine who to interview. Following the interviews, the tool helped the decision-making process by matching the applicants’ skill sets and backgrounds with the schools’ requirements.

Holland recently hired a fourth-grade teacher using the new system. The initial feedback from students and parents has been positive.

“The parents and students love her,” Holland said about the new hire. “She’s engaging, involved, knowledgeable and brings a lot of passion and energy to the classroom.”

About the Author:

Nick Montgomery is the chief research officer for PeopleAdmin. With over 15 years of experience across education research and computer science, Nick brings a wide breadth of knowledge and insight to solving education problems with data. Prior to leading the research, assessment, and analytics agenda Nick was a co-founder of UChicago Impact and Associate Director at the Consortium on Chicago School Research at the University of Chicago — providing nationwide school improvement data tools built from high-end research to over 4,000 schools nationwide. Nick holds a Master of Arts in education research from the University of Michigan, and a Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science from Brown University.