Online Dating for Teachers: Finding the Right Classroom
BY Adam Poswolsky
If online dating works so well for people looking for love and happiness, maybe the same concept can apply to people looking for other types of fulfillment, say maybe even teachers looking for the right school to work at, and educators looking to hire the right teacher for their school.
myEDmatch, an education technology start-up based in Kansas City, is using the same principle behind online dating to create a matching service for teachers and schools.
After working as vice president of education for The Kauffman Foundation, co-founder Munro Richardson realized that the biggest challenge facing high-need schools was finding the right teachers for the school. Teacher turnover is an enormous cost to schools—the total cost of turnover in the Chicago Public Schools is estimated to be over $86 million per year—not to mention the externalized cost on student achievement when a teacher leaves a classroom. 600,000 teachers change schools annually (the rate of attrition is 50% higher in poor schools than wealthier ones), and the estimated cost of teacher attrition in U.S. schools is $7.3 billion a year.
The website allows teachers, both working and unemployed, certified and non-certified, to sign-up for a free online profile, and search for open positions at schools around the country based on their “fit” — this includes information you wouldn’t normally find on a school’s website, such as expected work hours, working environment, and a school’s educational and cultural values. The service promotes transparency for teachers, letting them review and compare schools much like a car buyer would in Consumer Reports.
On the other end, principals and school administrators can recruit from a database of teachers from across the country and find teachers that are the right fit for their school (as well as check out a teacher’s virtual portfolio: a video of leading a class, sample lesson plans, and examples of student work).
Adam had the opportunity to talk with Munro about why he started myEDmatch, and his mission to improve American education and reduce teacher turnover.
I grew up in Kansas City, I’m a product of public schools in Kansas City. I did well at the University of Kansas, and then got my Master’s at Harvard in East Asian studies, before studying at Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. After, I worked on Capitol Hill for Joe Biden on the Foreign Relations Committee for two years, before moving back home and getting a job at a community foundation, and then moving on to The Kauffman Foundation. At Kauffman, I managed their education grant portfolio, helping start a $130m college access program, and launching a charter school.
How did you realize something needed to be changed about how teachers are recruited?
We came across a problem when we were starting our charter school (the Ewing Marian Kauffman school)—that was the challenge of finding the right teachers for a high-need school. In October 2009, I went to Boston and New York City to visit 12 high-performing urban charter schools to see what the schools were doing well, and really to ask, “Where do you get your teachers?” The most frequent answer was, Craigslist. It’s a lot easier for a school in New York City and Boston to attract high-quality teachers; in Kansas City, it’s lot more difficult. We had a recruitment firm, but it didn’t solve the teacher pipeline challenge.
I had coffee with Alicia Herald, my co-founder, who was then the executive director of Teach For America of Kansas City. Alicia was constantly getting requests from schools wanting TFA alums to share their job postings with their networks.
Alicia had a Jerry Maguire moment: sites like Match.com and eHarmony were doing matching for dating, we could combine the efficiency and effectiveness of online dating for the process of recruiting teachers.
In September 2012, both of us quit our jobs (we both had very good jobs), and jumped into this full time. We’re trying to solve a very simple problem: teachers finding the right school, and schools finding the right teachers.
How does the site work?
The site includes three main features that help educators and school leaders connect across different school networks, cities, and states.
First, an online profile for educators to detail what their school is looking for in its teachers (and for teachers to detail what they are looking for in a school, as well show a digital resume and virtual portfolio of their work).
Second, is a list of job postings, and third is a beliefs-based matching system to help connect mission and culture fit teachers and schools.
This is based on research I did over several years at Kauffman and the practical experience Alicia’s had from hiring and placing teachers with TFA.
How does myEDmatch address the problem of teacher turnover?
Teacher attrition is a huge program.
By some estimates, 40% of teachers leave the profession within 5 years of starting to teach and 50% leave within 6 years.
This human capital challenge really is the soft underbelly of the education reform movement. Opening more charter schools or closing and turning around existing schools alone won’t work if we don’t get the right teachers in the right classroom so they’ll stay longer.
Principals spend the majority of their time in the second half of the year focused on teacher recruitment. We use information from both teachers and schools. Just like online dating, the more information we have about you, the better we can do to match your preferences. You can meet someone within certain parameters. Set the location, the kind of school (charter, urban, catholic, etc.). There are filters just like in online dating.
How does the platform benefit teachers?
There are many different pedagogies and styles for learning today (STEM, college prep, experiential, arts education, emphasis family involvement, no family involvement). There are schools that favor pay-for-performance, faith-based schools, public schools, magnet schools, charter schools, and private schools. Educators have very different views about each of these.
myEDmatch allows educators to pick exactly the type of school they want to work for, but also schools can find educators they would never know about. A teacher may be a bad fit for one school, but a perfect fit for another school. Actually, you can have a school in rural North Carolina that would be a great fit for a teacher in Spokane, but they would likely never know about each other absent myEDmatch. We’re excited about making these kinds of connections.
We’re trying to create greater transparency, and empower teachers to choose where they work just as much as the schools choose them.
25% of new teachers (1-3 years experience) leave the classroom each spring. It’s about evenly split between those who quit teaching and those who leave the classroom.
Most teachers cite working conditions as the cause for this decision. We think it’s because they didn’t have enough and the right info to make a good decision about where to work. This also benefits teachers who graduate from Ed school—many of whom never teach because of the amount of work it takes to find a job—find job opportunities more easily.
Can’t teachers and schools just use existing job boards for job searching or recruiting?
These solutions are missing the crucial discussion of “fit.” After No Child Left Behind, there’s been a huge focus on teacher quality (pay-for-performance, measuring student growth) when it comes to hiring. But we’re adding the discussion of fit. You need get to get the right teacher in the right school. If a teacher doesn’t have the skills, you can train up for that, but if it’s not a mission and culture fit, it’s not going to work, period.
Where has been the greatest surprise getting myEDmatch off the ground thus far?
Well, we anticipated having strong interest from charter schools, especially in high-need communities in areas like Kansas City, which lacks the volume human capital of a large school district like Boston. But we’re also getting from interest from reform-minded school districts, as well schools in Boston and Chicago, places where we didn’t think there would be as much interest since there is already so much talent in those cities.
Is the site free?
The site is free for teachers. Schools pay a fee to use the site.
When does the full-version of the site launch?
You can sign-up on the site now. We’re anticipating a full launch Spring 2013.
(Photos courtesy of Creative Commons (top) and Subject, Munro Richardson (right))