Three Ways School Districts Can Improve Inclusive Hiring Practices

Jun 18, 2024 6:18:18 PM

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Three Ways School Districts Can Improve Inclusive Hiring Practices
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School districts across the country have launched diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives with the best of intentions. Knowing that representation in the classroom boosts academic outcomes, fosters innovation, and strengthens their students’ confidence, school leaders are striving to employ a more diverse workforce.

Unfortunately, while their hearts may be in the right place, their hiring policies often remain stuck in a perpetual status quo. Instead of recruiting with intention, many districts continue to use the same practices that closed the door on diverse candidates in the first place.  

Every district says it wants to staff its schools with caring, capable, and diverse teachers and administrators, but without a concrete plan, it can’t move its hiring systems forward.

Rebuilding the Hiring Process

At the Beaverton School District (BSD) in Oregon, our administrators and school board have made DEI a cornerstone of our mission. Because of our location in the heart of Silicon Forest, where the tech industry has attracted employees from around the globe, many students are recent immigrants to the U.S. In fact, more than 110 languages are spoken within our school walls.

To help every student feel welcomed and celebrated, we strive to infuse the assets of their diverse cultures into the day-to-day operations of our schools. A critical component of this initiative is ensuring students see themselves in many of their teachers and leaders. 

As a district, we had to shift away from the traditional recruiting approach and move to a more intentional, culturally competent, and multifaceted strategic mindset. This allowed us to discover and develop new ways to attract skilled and enthusiastic educators.

1. Forge new pathways for potential hires. School districts usually hire from two talent pools—new graduates looking for their first jobs or experienced teachers working in other districts. Unfortunately, those pools are drying up as fewer college students are majoring in education, and more educators are calling it quits.

Our district tackled this challenge by broadening our recruitment efforts. We started by building stronger relationships with students at local teaching colleges through professional development opportunities that immersed them in the district long before graduation day and connected them to mentors with similar backgrounds and experiences. Once their degree was in hand, many chose to remain in Beaverton, where they already felt welcomed and involved in the district and the community.

In addition, because 20 percent of Beaverton residents were born outside the U.S., we had several potential candidates who held bachelor’s degrees in education from other countries but were not licensed to teach in Oregon. Our human resources (HR) team and administrators worked together to help guide educators through the endorsement and state certification process so they could more quickly put their knowledge and experience to work.

2. Hire “strategically,” not “seasonally.” Like many school districts, BSD followed a traditional hiring season – opening positions in the spring and recruiting throughout the summer. As vacancies grew throughout the year after the pandemic, we were caught up in a system of our own making, watching top educators head to other districts with the ability to hire on the spot and immediately place them in a teaching role.

Today, we’ve removed the barriers to recruitment and onboarding so that we can hand them a contract if an educator is ready and available to step into a classroom. Teachers no longer have the anxiety associated with the waiting game, and our students benefit academically from having consistency in the classroom.

3. Erase implicit biases in hiring. One of the most detrimental problems in recruitment can be solved by training principals and administrators on what to look for in job applicants. It’s human nature that we lean toward candidates that fit our “likability score”—instead of questioning how the educator can meet the needs of our students, we can sometimes overly focus on whether or not this is a person we’d want to spend time with socially outside of a work environment.

To prevent unconscious biases from affecting recruitment, BSD has applied a lens of equity to all aspects of hiring. For instance, we’ve transitioned to blind screens in the application process, trained staff to sift through resumes quickly based on the needs we need to fill, and developed a standardized interview process based on cultural competency that empowers interviewers to critique candidates based on their skills, attributes, and experience.

Bringing a More Diverse Workforce to Beaverton.

Over the past 20 months, with the support of our district school board, HR team, administrators, and educators, we have hired more than 60 administrators, half of whom are people of color. In addition, our principals have diversified their teaching staff with exceptional educators who share our students’ cultures, experiences, and backgrounds. 

However, we’re just beginning to see the benefits of our recruitment efforts. As more administrators and teachers of color successfully join our district, other educators see peers who look like them and are happily following their path to fill vacant positions. Most importantly, our students thrive in a diverse and culturally congruent educational environment. 

Dr. Gustavo Balderas

Dr. Gustavo Balderas is the superintendent of Beaverton School District. He has been an educator for more than 34 years. He started his career in education as a high school teacher and counselor in Oregon, and has served as superintendent in California, Washington State, and Oregon.

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