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April 1, 2014
Vol. 56
No. 4

Road Tested / Three Steps for Hiring Future All-Stars

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Although hiring educators isn't quite the same as hiring pro athletes, we all know that bringing the right (or wrong) person onto a team can have a tremendous effect. After a summer filled with hiring and an engaging discussion at ASCD's Leader to Leader (L2L) Conference about the importance of progressive hiring practices, I've had the chance to reflect on three steps that can help any organization hire with the future in mind.

Associate Applicant with Action

Just like in the sports industry, those vying for a position need to be tested. Any applicant can answer a series of standard questions, yet not all applicants shine when put on stage. To take hiring to the next level, interview committees can have teacher applicants teach a demo lesson that includes lesson planning, facilitating the lesson, and writing a reflection about or discussing their experience with school staff. Applicants for administrative positions might conduct a classroom or building walkthrough and share thoughts, steps, and ways to work with the observed subset of students and staff.
In a "flipped" version, the interview committee can assign applicants a task prior to meeting: a candidate for a district social studies coordinator can review curriculum maps and create an action plan that aligns with the national frameworks; or a potential assistant superintendent can design and present a three-year, district-level plan for curricular changes. This model provides the interview committee with early evidence to frame a decision.
In a recent hiring experience for our regional science coordinator, we met applicants at our science kit warehouse, walked them through the facility, and then asked them to consider what appeared efficient, what did not, and how that would factor into future curriculum design. Going a step further, we asked our finalists to design a lesson or unit that took material needs and new science initiatives into account, and we explored these during the work session interview.
All of these examples put potential hires in a positive-stress situation, allowing their character and critical- and creative-thinking skills to shine through.

Broaden the Base

A team where everyone plays the same position isn't going to get very far, and it is unlikely that a quarterback will be the best choice to select a punter. So too in education. A committee of administrators can't be the only voices involved in a hiring process. In addition, it isn't enough to have various stakeholders present during an interview; they need to be a part of the entire process. Teachers should be involved in hiring other teachers and administrators, and they should have a say in what questions are asked and how the interview proceeds. Students, parents, and community members are also necessary members of the interview team: they can help craft effective questions and be involved in deliberations, even for district-level positions.
Involving all stakeholders in a hiring decision greatly increases buy-in for that new staff member. One of the best interviews that I ever played a role in actively involved students and parents. Everyone's opinion was considered, and all members of the hiring team felt as if their voices had been heard. If communities are, by nature, collaborative entities, then we have to make sure that our hiring structure exemplifies this.

Collaborate, Create, and Cut

Basketball today looks very different from how the game was played when James Naismith invented it. Similar to the world of sports, our education landscape is constantly shifting, so it makes sense that our hiring practices change with the times as well. In other words, to hire for the future, we cannot interview as we did in the past. How do we avoid doing that?
We have to work together to build (and tear down) hiring processes. I'm a firm believer in fluid hiring—the idea that interview processes should change regularly and often to suit the position being filled. To find the best possible candidates for a team, we need a hiring process that allows us to separate the top candidate from the rest of the pack. For example, we have to replace old questions (Where do you see yourself in five years?) with new ones (How do you see social media helping and hindering you in your role?) and be willing to let the interviewee interview us.


Fred Ende is director of Curriculum and Instructional Services for the Putnam/Northern Westchester Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) where he is responsible for supporting and leading the development of curriculum, professional learning, and innovative educational initiatives, and is liaison to the New York State Education Department regarding curriculum and instruction requirements and regulations. He previously served in this same organization as the assistant director of Curriculum and Instructional Services as well as regional science coordinator and director of SCIENCE 21. Before that, he worked for 10 years as a middle school science teacher and department chair in Chappaqua, New York.

Ende is one of ASCD's emerging leaders and currently is a board member in ASCD's Emerging Leader Affiliate. He has written and reviewed manuscripts for the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), Heinemann Publishing, Corwin Press, and ASCD and has been both a national and regional presenter for both associations. He is an avid writer who blogs monthly for SmartBrief and has also written for Edutopia.

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