Sherwood Middle School is located in South Memphis. Ninety-four percent of Sherwood’s students are low-income, and last year, only eight percent were proficient in math and language arts. If there were ever a school that needed access to great teachers, it was Sherwood Middle. But in 2013, Sherwood, like all schools in Memphis and others nationwide, couldn’t begin hiring teachers for the upcoming school year until it was nearly summer.
Kids at schools like Sherwood lose out when school districts have to wait until late spring and summer to hire new teachers, because those schools miss the best teacher talent. In research we conducted for Shelby County Schools (SCS), home to Sherwood Middle, we found that 60 percent of teachers hired between March and May of 2013 were rated in the top two categories on the district’s teacher evaluation rubric. Only 40 percent of those hired between June and July were rated as effective. And that wasn’t all: June and July hires were more likely to leave the district within one year, causing SCS to spend more on recruitment, onboarding and professional development. Late hiring represents missed opportunities to hire the best teachers—a big problem for students—and costs districts more, too, because of the financial burdens of higher turnover. This isn’t news: We’ve been writing about the problem of late teacher hiring (and how to solve it) for more than 10 years now.