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Journal Article

Mix and Match: What Principals Really Look for When Hiring Teachers

Douglas N. Harris, Stacey A. Rutledge, William K. Ingle and Cynthia C. Thompson
Education Finance and Policy
Vol. 5, No. 2 (Spring 2010), pp. 228-246
Published by: The MIT Press
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Page Count: 19
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Mix and Match: What Principals Really Look for When Hiring Teachers
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Abstract The vast majority of research and policy related to teacher quality focuses on the supply of teachers and ignores teacher demand. In particular, the important role of school principals in hiring teachers is rarely considered. Using interviews of school principals in a midsized Florida school district, we provide an exploratory mixed methods analysis of the teacher characteristics principals prefer. Our findings contradict the conventional wisdom that principals undervalue content knowledge and intelligence. Principals in our study ranked content knowledge third among a list of twelve characteristics. Intelligence does appear less important at first glance, but this is apparently because principals believe all applicants who meet certification requirements meet aminimum threshold on intelligence and because some intelligent teachers have difficulty connecting with students. More generally, we find that principals prefer an “individual mix” of personal and professional qualities. They also create an “organizational mix,” hiring teachers who differ from those already in the school in terms of race, gender, experience, and skills, and an “organizational match,” in which teachers have similar work habits and a high propensity to remain with the school over time. Because of tenure rules, many principals also prefer less experienced (untenured) teachers, even though research suggests that they are less effective.

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