Lindsay Diamond, Assistant Professor of Special Education, Tammy Abernathy, Professor of Special Education, and MaryAnn Demchak, Professor of Special Education, have published a new study examining what characteristics principals are looking for in new teachers to hire in "Principals’ Preferences in the Hiring Process: Is Everything Old New Again?"
“We were exploring to see if we need to adjust our programs to address different characteristics that maybe have become more important now than they were 20 years ago,” Diamond said. “And what we saw was that the same factors are still at the top part of the list.”
The researchers surveyed principals across multiple schools, determining the principals’ attitudes towards certain types of teacher licensure and other important skills that the principals believed were necessary for new hires. The results examined what types of licensure and certification principals valued, what skills they were looking for in the hiring process and whether they preferred to hire teachers from Alternative Routes to Licensure (ARL) programs or from traditional four-year institutions.
“My intention is to share with other teacher preparation programs and/or educator preparation programs across the board, special education or general education that we need to provide and prepare teachers who have these skills and abilities to communicate these skills to the principals that perhaps they're interviewing with, and also to put these into practice,” Diamond said.
Some principals in the study demonstrated that they would pick teachers from a more traditional, four-year program if given the choice. But the authors emphasized that ARL programs are still an important tool in fighting the modern teacher shortage.
“The reality is that ARL programs vary in quality as all teacher preparation programs vary in quality,” Demchak said. “The principals may just have had some experiences that weren't so good, whereas other ones may have had much better experiences.”
The authors accounted for the fact that the United States is undergoing a time where a teacher shortage is growing more and more severe. Some questions in the surveys distributed to principals asked about the actual hiring practices principals used, but others also asked principals to consider how their hiring practices would look if this shortage wasn’t a factor.
“A principal under duress, they just need a teacher,” Abernathy said. “Asking the question two different ways, we got to say, ‘we recognize how hard this is for you’. We asked it two ways and the answers were not completely identical.”
Another critical finding of the research was a general appreciation from the principals for teachers with dual licensure in general education and special education. In other words, principals saw teachers who had received these licensures and were qualified to teach in both areas as a particularly valuable asset for their school. A final but important ingredient in the recipe for a perfect teacher to hire was something simple: in-classroom experience.
“Everything we know about good teacher education is about in-classroom experience with kids, perfecting your craft, doing it for real,” Diamond said. “It makes perfect sense that that's what they're looking for. They’re not looking for degrees and awards and grade point average. Those are things that aren't that interesting. It's so critical for our programs to have the fieldwork placements, the student teaching opportunities and observation opportunities to be in actual classrooms.”