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Mix and Match: What Principals Really Look for When Hiring Teachers


  • Douglas N. Harris

    () (Educational Policy Studies, University of Wisconsin, Madison)

  • Stacey A. Rutledge

    () (Educational Leadership and Policy, College of Education, Florida State University)

  • William K. Ingle

    () (Leadership and Policy, Bowling Green State University)

  • Cynthia C. Thompson

    () (Educational Leadership and Policy, College of Education, Florida State University)


The vast majority of research and policy related to teacher quality focuses on the supply of teachers and ignores teacher demand. In particular, the important role of school principals in hiring teachers is rarely considered. Using interviews of school principals in a midsized Florida school district, we provide an exploratory mixed methods analysis of the teacher characteristics principals prefer. Our findings contradict the conventional wisdom that principals undervalue content knowledge and intelligence. Principals in our study ranked content knowledge third among a list of twelve characteristics. Intelligence does appear less important at first glance, but this is apparently because principals believe all applicants who meet certification requirements meet a minimum threshold on intelligence and because some intelligent teachers have difficulty connecting with students. More generally, we find that principals prefer an “individual mix” of personal and professional qualities. They also create an “organizational mix,” hiring teachers who differ from those already in the school in terms of race, gender, experience, and skills, and an “organizational match,” in which teachers have similar work habits and a high propensity to remain with the school over time. Because of tenure rules, many principals also prefer less experienced (untenured) teachers, even though research suggests that they are less effective. © 2010 American Education Finance Association

Suggested Citation

  • Douglas N. Harris & Stacey A. Rutledge & William K. Ingle & Cynthia C. Thompson, 2010. "Mix and Match: What Principals Really Look for When Hiring Teachers," Education Finance and Policy, MIT Press, vol. 5(2), pages 228-246, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:tpr:edfpol:v:5:y:2010:i:2:p:228-246

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    Cited by:

    1. Dan Goldhaber & Cyrus Grout & Nick Huntington-Klein, 2017. "Screen Twice, Cut Once: Assessing the Predictive Validity of Applicant Selection Tools," Education Finance and Policy, MIT Press, vol. 12(2), pages 197-223, Spring.
    2. Hinrichs, Peter, 2014. "What Kind of Teachers Are Schools Looking For? Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment," Working Paper 1436, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland.
    3. Harris, Douglas N. & Sass, Tim R., 2014. "Skills, productivity and the evaluation of teacher performance," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(C), pages 183-204.
    4. Katina Pollock & Fei Wang & David Cameron Hauseman, 2015. "Complexity and Volume: An Inquiry into Factors that Drive Principals’ Work," Societies, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 5(2), pages 1-29, June.
    5. Tara Béteille & Demetra Kalogrides & Susanna Loeb, 2011. "Stepping Stones: Principal Career Paths and School Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 17243, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item


    teacher hiring; teacher demand; teacher characteristics;

    JEL classification:

    • I20 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - General
    • I21 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Analysis of Education
    • I22 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Educational Finance; Financial Aid


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