It has been reported that half of new teachers in the United States leave the profession within five years. Every teacher that leaves a school ends up costing thousands of dollars, in addition to the many hours spent to recruit, interview, hire, and train a new employee. In a large urban school district, the costs can be tens of thousands of dollars. Chicago Public Schools loses an average of $17,872 every time a teacher leaves, and turnover is estimated to cost the district more than $86 million a year (National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, 2007). At the national level, yearly estimates are greater than $7 billion. When you factor in strong correlations between low performing schools, poverty, and teacher turnover, it’s clear that student performance and learning can also be profoundly impacted. However, despite recent data showing direct relationships between hiring practices and teacher retention, surprisingly little attention has been paid to teacher hiring by academic researchers or the education market at large.
DemoLesson, founded by Teach for America alumna Mandela Schumacher-Hodge and UCLA Riordan MBA Fellow Brian Martinez, has a twofold mission: to disrupt the hiring cycle in education, and to allow teachers to be proactive in their job search, showcasing their talents in a digital profile that goes above and beyond a traditional resume. In addition to education, experience, and credentials, teachers can upload headshots, attachments of sample work such as syllabi or class presentations, as well as a video of a demo lesson. This way, employers can view the teacher in the classroom prior to an interview, streamlining the process greatly in terms of both time and finances. DemoLesson recently introduced the “30-second snippet,” which allows a teacher to highlight the segment of their video they feel best represents their work, allowing schools to screen applications even more quickly.
I have been excited to write about DemoLesson since seeing their presentation at the LAUNCH Education & Kids conference in June, and even more so after talking to co-founder and COO Mandela. Although education reform has been newsworthy as of late, it is a common criticism that teachers have been left out of the conversation. In the education technology market, there seems to be a disconnect as well. But regardless of how much direct classroom experience someone in edtech might have, they are likely to understand and value “cultural fit” in hiring, especially at an early stage startup. “Hire slow, fire fast,” is a mantra I’ve heard more than a few times. The goal is to make sure that every team member you add fits in perfectly with your company culture and philosophy, and it’s not something that may be immediately obvious. Now, let’s take a look at how that translates to hiring in public education. In a 2006 study of four states, it was found that 60% of teachers were hired within a month of the beginning of the school year, with 11% of teachers being hired after the first day of school nationally. With last minute pressures to fully staff their classrooms, it’s highly likely that many schools are not finding appropriate fits for their job vacancies, therefore further propagating the vicious cycle of teacher turnover and the costly process of finding and training replacements. As DemoLesson allows school administrators to immediately see a teacher in a classroom setting, it can cut down time and money spent on screening and interviewing substantially, freeing scarce resources to be allotted to professional development and support to promote teacher retention. Over the summer months, the team is rolling out new features to increase the transparency of the hiring process for teachers, while allowing employers to review and manage large pools of candidates more efficiently. For example, if a school requires specific certifications, they can quickly screen and identify applicants that meet their needs.
After a successful beta in 50 schools (including the Oakland Unified School District) and acquiring many inbound leads via word of mouth, DemoLesson is well on their way to making an impact on the teacher hiring cycle. They have also built their website and blog into a valuable resource for teachers, and post job listings from all over the country. The service is free for teachers, who can link to their profile while applying for jobs even outside the DemoLesson network.
There are a lot more great things I could say about DemoLesson and its founders, but I will end by saying that I believe empowering teachers and improving the hiring process is one critical step toward imparting systemic change in the American education system, which has a direct impact on all citizens.