Much has been made of the AP’s recent expose of sexual misconduct in the teaching profession. Though I won’t discuss it in this post [and probably not at any length later], I commend it to you in full:
Also, check out Scott Reeder’s report at The Hidden Cost of Tenure. His long-running investigation of misconduct in Illinois schools is one of the finest education journalism pieces I’ve read in years.
But I wrote this post to discuss a troubling statement I read on Dave Saba’s blog.
Saba, the President of the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence, says that sexual misconduct in the classroom is a byproduct of a shallow talent pool and strained human resources departments.
In The Shallow Pool he writes [emphases mine]:
Here is an analogy for the AP report on sexual misconduct plaguing schools. It is the unfortunate consequence of not having enough applicants for all the job openings in our schools. When the talent pool gets shallow, school districts end up hiring whoever is available. When HR spends the bulk of their time running around filling jobs at the last minute, the wrong people are going to slip through and get into a classroom.
It is going to get worse and that is an outrage. I was presenting at AASPA and met with numerous district HR people. Some are hiring from overseas and end up being immigration lawyers, housing specialists and cultural integrators – which sucks up so much time that they cannot do the rest of their jobs and the teachers don’t work out and leave anyway. Others are venturing far from their state to recruit – costing time and money. For math and science teachers they are lucky to have one qualified applicant for the job and when you only have one applicant you don’t have a choice. They are desperately seeking ways to fill jobs and taking what they can get. Is that what our students deserve? Or do they deserve a teacher selected from many great applicants?
Being desperate creates a perfect situation for some of the people listed in the AP article. We have got to increase the talent pool so that our districts do not end up getting the sludge.
It isn’t negligence by hiring managers and school officials, says Saba. The problem is that HR is forced into that negligence because they aren’t inundated with enough incredible candidates to make their job easy.
This stance is indefensible.
I left the following comment on Saba’s blog. I decided to reproduce it here in part because it is subject to moderation before posting and may never appear on his site. It sums up well my thoughts:
I find several parts of this post to be problematic.
You start by saying that schools are forced to hire suboptimal candidates because the talent pool necessitates it. If true – and that can be argued – it only addresses those who have offended and been disciplined in a former district. That’s only part of the problem. Or would you say that a deeper pool would allow you to avoid the would-be offenders, too?
If HR spends their time “running around filling jobs at the last minute,” that’s a problem with HR and it’s one that can be fixed. Schools aren’t the only organizations who: a) hire and b) are forced to draw from a talent pools that aren’t terribly appealing.
You’ve also implied that HR is forced to do a shoddy job with hiring – if they’re filling jobs quickly at the expense of proper background checks, they’re not just doing a disservice to us all, they’re putting students in harm’s way.
Can you genuinely excuse a district – even if rushed or dealing with a single qualified applicant – for failing to investigate properly a teacher’s professional past? And can you excuse a district who knows of a teacher’s sexual misdeeds and hires him anyway out of professional necessity?
There is no excuse for hiring a teacher with a criminal or school-level disciplinary record pertaining to sexual misconduct.
And if you think otherwise, I’ll let you explain to parents that their child is in a classroom every day with a teacher who has been disciplined for sexual misconduct but that the district hired anyway.
You can explain to them that the real problem is a shallow talent pool that strains district resources and results in negligence that puts their children at risk for sexual abuse. You can tell them that it’s unfortunate, regrettable, and if there were just more applicants, you wouldn’t have to hire predators. You can also ask the community for more money to augment staff so you wouldn’t be forced into such irresponsible hiring practices. Accepting the abhorrent, blaming others and asking for more money? An unpopular trifecta indeed.
Again, you can give that presentation communities across the country. I’m not going to do it.
If you find that difficulties with hiring practices result in suboptimal – and in this case dangerous – hires, by all means suggest that state laws get tougher, discipline for offenders is more swift and/or more serious or that graduate/licensing/certification for administrators includes effective HR training. Those would all be sensible solutions.
But don’t justify the negligence of hiring those guilty of sexual misconduct by pointing a finger at the applicant pool. That’s the hiring equivalent of, “Dressing like that, she was asking for it!” and it’s nothing short of shameful.
11 Responses to “Teachers and Sexual Misconduct: Is it the Talent Pool?”
- Friday Four and a Half Pounds of Fury at www.matthewktabor.com : Education for the Aughts - American School Issues and Analysis - [...] hadn’t thought of Mr. Saba since October, 2007 when he blamed sexual misconduct in schools on a shallow teaching ...