Sources of Applicant Information, Coursework Example
Seven Methods of Acquiring Information from Applicants for Teaching Positions
The material in Chapter Three provides a comprehensive overview of the various ways that schools acquire information about applicants for teaching positions. The text lists seven basic means by which information is gathered, and discusses each in detail. Going beyond a simple list of information, the text offers several suggestions about how the acquisition of certain information may best be obtained, and provides practical guidance for administrators tasked with designing screening and hiring processes. The seven means of gathering applicant’s information are: Application Form, Licensure or Certification, Transcripts, References, Test Scores, Background Checks, and Interviews. The utility and value of each of these means of gathering information varies, with some being more valuable than others; e.g.-transcripts are considered to be less valuable than responses offered in interview settings. Each of these methods will be discussed with an eye towards understanding and rating their value and efficacy.
The first step for a potential teaching candidate is to fill out an application form. These forms are designed to gather basic information about applicants; there are some general guidelines for the design of an application form that ensure such forms will be effective and fair. Those designing application forms should avoid asking questions about topics that are irrelevant to the position, and must also avoid asking questions that are inappropriate or where the answers to the questions could be used for discriminatory purposes. Questions about ethnicity, age, or religious background, for example, are generally inappropriate; besides, such information can typically be inferred by examining other pre-screening information.
There are other lines of inquiry that should be avoided as well, such as questions about marital status, and questions about an applicant’s spouse. Questions about whether an applicant plans to have children are also inappropriate, though it is acceptable to inquire of an applicant whether he or she has any issues that might interfere with job attendance. While it is not appropriate to ask an applicant about his or her medical issues, many applications list the duties and functions of the position, and ask the applicant if he or she can adequately perform the tasks associated with the job. Ultimately an effective job application will gather pertinent information that will make it clear what for which position the applicant has applied, and will not ask questions that are potentially discriminatory or otherwise inappropriate.
Licensure and certification are usually needed to gain employment as a teacher. There are several different ways to acquire certification; some are more helpful to those just entering the profession out of college, while others are more helpful to those who become teachers later in life. College graduates who receive a BA in Education are often granted certification that covers a two- or three-year period; applicants for teaching positions who have a background in a different field can seek alternative means of acquiring certification. Alternative certifications of varying types are accepted in most states, and are also helpful for those who choose to switch professions after working in unrelated fields. There is little evidence that teachers with traditional certification fare any better in the classroom than do those with alternative certification, though the attrition rate for teachers with alternative certification is slightly higher than it is for those with standard certification.
Transcripts are, perhaps, the least important of the various means of acquiring information about applicants. While there may be some advantages for those applicants who excelled in school, evidence shows that higher test scores on transcripts are not indicative that an applicant will be an effective teacher. It is, of course, necessary to see an applicant’s transcripts at some point in the hiring process, simply to ensure that the applicant actually has attended and graduated from the school from which he or she holds a degree. There have been cases of impostors with little or no education gaining employment as teachers or other professionals; verified transcripts guard against this possibility.
References can be useful and valuable, provided they convey comprehensive information. The book suggests asking applicants to sign a release form allowing hiring administrators to contact former supervisors in an effort to determine how well the applicant performed at his or her previous place of employment. Letters of reference, however, are generally of little use, as they typically only offer praise of the applicant, while avoiding comment on any potential negative characteristics.
Test scores can be valuable tools to measure an applicant’s competency in his or her chosen field. Nearly all states require that teaching applicants be tested for content knowledge and/or professional skills. Some states design their own tests, while others use nationally-distributed tests. The text offers a discussion about the Praxis series of tests: Praxis I tests an applicant’s basic knowledge; Praxis II focuses on content knowledge, and Praxis III is divided into several sections that examine an applicant’s overall abilities as a teacher. Some states require an applicant to pass Praxis III in order to obtain provisional teaching certification; others require it for teacher to move from provisional certification to standard certification. Many teachers unions are ambivalent about testing; while most will defer to testing for new applicants, unions such as the NEA oppose the ongoing testing of those who already hold teaching positions, insisting that certification, promotion, and other issues not be tied to testing for established teachers.
Background checks are imperative for teaching applicants, but must be properly handled. It is appropriate to ask about criminal convictions for offenses that are in any way related to the functions of the teaching profession, but general questions about an applicant’s arrest record are to be avoided. The advent of national databases –especially for those related to violent crimes and sexual offenses- has made it easier to conduct criminal background checks, but even the best screening process will not catch everything. Employers should look for inconsistencies or gaps in an applicant’s record and inquire about any concerns related to such inconsistencies. Some states require applicants to sign sworn affidavits that state the applicant has never engaged in behavior that would render him or her ineligible to hold a teaching position.
Perhaps the most important step in the hiring process is the interview. In the case of interviewing applicants for teaching positions, the interview process is two-fold; the screening interview allows interviewers to determine if the applicant meets the minimum requisites for the job and meets the needs of the school, while the selection interview further examines those candidates who have made it through the screening interview. The discussion about the selection interview process is quite detailed, exploring an array of factors that can inadvertently skew the selection process and offering suggestions about how to draw out the most reliable and helpful information from the applicant.
There are other ways of finding out information about job applicants; the use of Internet searches and scanning of social media sites is becoming an increasingly common method for Human Resources personnel to dig up information. Using the Internet to do background checks on applicants is a relatively new phenomenon, and the legal ramifications of such searches are still unclear. There have been successful lawsuits filed by job applicants who were denied jobs after employers conducted Internet searches, and some attorneys are suggesting that employers tread lightly in this area (Wocjik, 2011). One suggestion for employers who find potentially incriminating information about an applicant on the Internet is to discuss the information with the applicant and give him or her a chance to respond to it (Wocjik, 2011). Because the use of the Internet to gather information about applicants is an area of unsettled law, it is recommended that HR departments appoint a manager familiar with employment law to conduct searches (Hsieh, 2011). That way it can be certain that only legally relevant information is passed along to those making hiring decisions.
There are many factors that contribute to student’s educational experiences, and help to determine whether students will achieve positive outcomes in school. Of all the different factors, however, teachers are by far the most significant; quality teachers are a student’s best insurance to receive a quality education (Stronge, Hindman; 2003). Because the role of teacher is so fundamental in the education process, it is imperative that schools do all they can to hire and retain the best teachers. In recent years, a renewed emphasis has been placed on the quality of teachers in our public schools (Sawchuck, 2011). While some of the ways that quality is being measured have been controversial (such as the use of comprehensive student test scores to “grade” teachers), there is little controversy about the need to hire great teachers (Sawchuck, 2011). Comprehensive hiring processes like those presented here are critical in ensuring that our schools are staffed with the very best teachers.
Hsieh, Sylvia. “Employers mining Internet for details on job applicants.” Lawyers USA. 14 November 2011.
Sawchuk, Stephen. “Districts More Strategic About Hiring Teachers.” Education Week V30 I33. 8 June 2011 p.11.
Stronge, James H., Hindman, Jennifer L. “Hiring the Best Teachers.” Educational Leadership. V60 I8 May 2003. p48
Wocjik, Joanne. “Think twice before googling job applicants, employees.” Business Insurance. V45 I19. 9 May 2011. pp. 4, 19
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