he past few years have brought an influx of teachers to Palo Alto High School. Twenty new staff members were hired for the 2016-17 school year and another 10 were hired at the beginning of this school year. The hiring process for new teachers at the Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) is undeniably thorough; according to an interview with Paly principal Kim Diorio, after the pool of applicants is narrowed down to eight candidates, an administrator and the instructional supervisor (IS) of the relevant department hold the first round of interviews, along with administrators from Henry M. Gunn High School and the middle schools.
After this meeting, out-of-state candidates are required to send in a video of them teaching, while candidates who live nearby are asked to teach a demo lesson. Administrators also check each candidate’s references and run informal background checks (in addition to official checks conducted by HR) on accounts like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, to ensure that there are no complaints from prior employers or questionable posts on social media. Diorio also stated that after teachers are hired (usually in April or May), they attend a teacher induction program. This week-long workshop teaches them both technical skills (like how to use Schoology) and equity training, which includes topics like teaching special needs students and avoiding unconscious classroom bias.
It is evident that the hiring and training process for new teachers is extensive. However, absent from this comprehensive process is the most important factor: the students.
While each applicant is expected to have three references, performance reviews are given only from an administrator’s vantage point. Input from past students is not taken into consideration, and while a student representative is allowed to sit in on interviews with potential administrators, there is no such avenue for students to screen potential teachers.
The Campanile believes that there should be a greater emphasis on student perspectives during the hiring process for teachers by inviting student representatives to interviews with potential teachers. After all, a large indicator of an educator’s success depends on how well their teaching style aligns with their students’ educational goals and learning styles.
The Campanile understands that allowing students to screen teachers may create logistical issues. If there are concerns about which students to choose as representatives, we suggest turning to self-selected representatives, such as members of Link Crew. These students have already demonstrated a willingness to improve the Paly experience for younger students, and may have taken some of the subjects that candidates teach. They would therefore have invaluable insight into the type of teacher who would succeed at teaching a certain course — insight that administrators may be lacking. As upperclassmen, is it unlikely that these students would ever go on to have that candidate as a teacher, reducing confidentiality concerns.
If allowing student representatives to sit in at interviews is not feasible, there are other ways for students to provide their input in the teacher hiring process. One proposed solution would be to allow student representatives to watch the videos of teacher candidates teaching or to sit in on their demo lessons. After these lessons, the student representatives could provide feedback on the candidates’ teaching methods, which could help administrators obtain student perspectives on whether or not the candidate would be a good fit for the students overall, an unarguably essential evaluator of the teacher application process.
Another solution would be for District administrators to push out a survey to students asking what traits they value most in potential teachers. When screening candidates, administrators and department ISs could go through the qualities that the teacher portrayed in the interview and demo lesson, and further ensure that they align with students’ ideals.
Through these solutions, The Campanile hopes to increase student input in the hiring process, fostering a sense of community between teachers and students and creating a more welcoming educational environment.