The Power of Teacher Selection to Improve Education

March 2016
Brian Jacob

This brief describes the findings from a study of the teacher selection system used by the District of Columbia Public Schools, which concludes that smart hiring can be less costly and more effective in raising teacher quality than many popular reforms.

Key findings

  1. Several traditional measures of academic achievement along with content knowledge, interview scores and ratings of teaching audition are strong predictors of how an applicant will perform as a teacher. Indeed, candidates in the top quartile of overall applicant quality score 0.6 standard deviations above applicants in the bottom quartile, a difference that is equivalent to the improvement that an average teacher makes between her first and third year on the job.
  2. While high-scoring applicants were more likely to be hired than low-scoring applicants, many candidates who were not hired had application scores exceeding the average of those who were hired. This suggests that the district could do even more to utilize the information collected through the screening process.
  3. Improving teacher selection can be a relatively low cost way to improve the teacher workforce.