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Hiring and Retention Policies

STRATEGY: Review hiring policies to ensure the quality and alignment of the best possible staff members for students.

A large teacher quality gap exists across schools in many districts, resulting in a situation where students of color and economically disadvantaged students are systemically provided less access to high-quality teachers than their peers. If the district does not develop a plan for human resource needs, it is unlikely that the schools will succeed. Districts must adopt approaches to teacher hiring and assignment that close the teacher quality gap. But to secure an effective teacher for every child, districts must do more than hire a qualified teacher. Districts need to select the right teacher for the content and make appropriate classroom assignments to ensure the quality and alignment of the best possible staff member for students. In addition, good working conditions, salaries, and opportunities for professional growth are needed if the benefits of a strong educator workforce and low attrition are to be realized.


Strategically addressing hiring in a comprehensive and aligned manner is essential to attracting, hiring, and retaining high-quality teachers and leaders. Critically important is the ability not only to hire effective teachers but also to retain them. Innovative hiring practices and thoughtful placement and assignment policies will improve teacher recruitment and retention. For example, some districts have included cognitive tests as a new hiring strategy. Districts and schools can begin this process by reviewing all policies related to recruitment and retention of teachers, aligning current staffing and organizational needs, and forecasting future staffing needs based on educational goals. The next step is to align recruitment strategies with employment planning and to implement the plan with the intent to hire and retain new employees, and train (or retrain) new hires and current employees.

First Steps to Consider

  • Encourage peer evaluation, constructive feedback, and coaching as ongoing practices to foster a “learning community” approach to quality teaching—practices that bolster professionalism and retention.
  • Create learning environments that encourage staff and students to interact within and across disciplines.
  • Perform an annual forecast, looking at both the number of available employees and the number of qualified employees needed in the future.
  • Implement aggressive hiring timelines and streamlined processes to secure more and better teachers; persevere to not lose teachers to neighboring districts that had earlier and more effective hiring processes.
  • Determine hiring goals based on data.
  • Review how salary policies, school leader assignment, and resource allocation might affect teachers’ decisions to apply, accept an offer at, and work where they are most needed in the district.
  • Create equitable teacher placement and assignment policies that focus on at-risk schools or students, such as salary bonuses and opportunities for professional growth.

Complexities & Pitfalls

  • A critical challenge for quality teaching is developing subject-specific experts into excellent teachers.
  • Unfortunately, most professional learning is focused on the district level rather than the school level. Well-designed professional development is an outcome of a collective reflection on aligned teaching and learning.
  • Principals emphasize the “fit” between the teacher and the school as important. However, a common drawback to school-level involvement in the hiring process is a focus on fit over effectiveness. There can also be arbitrariness about what school leaders value in a teacher, compared to what the district feels is critical. Carefully consider who should be involved in the hiring process.
  • The interview process is often viewed by employees as an effective strategy for ascertaining professional and personal characteristics of applicants, yet research suggests that the interview process is underutilized.

Guiding Questions

  • What are the working conditions that contribute to recruiting and retaining experienced and highly qualified teachers?
  • What are some of the local education agency and state department agency policies, perceived and real, that present barriers to equity? Which policies facilitate equity?
  • What are the biggest obstacles any district needs to overcome in developing more effective teachers?
  • What are the biggest obstacles to overcome in raising awareness of quality teaching?
  • What three actions could be implemented within any school to have a significant impact on the quality of teaching?