The State of Teacher Talent Practices

January 2020

Over the last two decades, educators have experienced some pendulum swings in public policy that have affected their own livelihoods as well as their students’ learning experiences. The No Child Left Behind Act defined specific achievement standards in mathematics and literacy for students, which created new pressures on teachers in “tested grades and subjects” to continuously improve student outcomes on standardized assessments.

Under Race to the Top, which was not a federal law, many states modified their legal code to change standard processes related to educator evaluation. State laws shifted evaluations by increasing their mandated frequency and defining specific categories in which educators should be regularly measured. States also moved collectively to adopt a common set of learning standards in math, ELA and science, which dramatically shifted both the ordering of content and the ways in which educators needed to teach their students the content.

In recent years, public policy at the state level has attempted to address teacher compensation (including salaries and pensions), as well as provide incentives for educators to teach in geographic and subject areas where there are shortages of qualified educators. Overall, the landscape for educators has been rapidly shifting, which means that setting improvement goals for educators and leaders and tracking them over time can be quite a challenge.

Here are some recent trends that are worth paying attention to as the landscape continues to evolve.

To read the full version of the recent report, visit The Frontline Research & Learning Institute at


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I thought the information on hiring trends was very insightful. I would be curious to see what percentage of new hires in different job sectors were referred to their position by word of mouth so that you could see the comparison across different jobs.

I found the data on teachers’ professional learning to be the most powerful yet troubling insights into the challenges facing the leaders of this field. Throughout the past few weeks of this course, there has been a strong emphasis on the need for increased professional development. However, this piece makes it clear that the conversation must outline precisely how they are receiving training and in what subject areas. Therefore, advocates for education reform need to be even more specific and intentional in their requests for “more training” that will bring the most value to their professional development and leadership in the classroom.

I would be curious to know why the Professional Learning Trends are so inconsistent and unstable across the board. A nationalized curriculum is not desirable, but what if Professional Learning for teachers and leaders was nationalized?

I was surprised to learn that “culturally fit” was a more important category for 70% of new hires as opposed to teacher training. Does this mean teacher training is not as important as it is perceived to be, or do those doing the hiring favor being more culturally inclusive and appropriate to a learning environment? I’d be interested to find out.

I thought the part about cultural fit being the most important thing that is considered for new hires was very insightful. It shows that the priorities aren’t necessarily about who is the most qualified. I think there are pros and cons to this. It is important to have a work environment where coworkers can get along and work well together, but it is also important that the workers are good at their job, especially when teacher quality is the most important factor for student achievement. There are probably many instances where the better teacher didn’t get the job because of cultural fit, and that ultimately hurts the students. I also wonder what aspects (race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc.) play into determining who is a cultural fit.

I was very surprised to see that only 11 percent of the 40 percent who applied through a job board were hired. I wonder if this data would be representative in a job market that may not require credentialing or certain merits. I can imagine that in a company where only certain skill sets are preferred that the referral hires would be hired.

I’m curious as to why almost no professional learning that teachers experience is data-driven, collaborative, intensive, or sustained even though it is classroom-focused and job-embedded. I definitely see the value in classroom-focused experience, but I could see teaching being even more beneficial when supplemented with data-driven collaborative experience.

If we are failing to meet standards but have policies in place that are not being enforced, then we must find ways to bridge the gap between policy and classroom teaching. The article mentions cultural fit being a higher priority than teaching, and though it is important for students to feel a connection with their teacher, teaching is actually the more important part of being a teacher. Higher qualification should always win over “culturally fit.”