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How Matchmaking Technology Can Help Reduce Teacher Turnover

04/19/2013 05:14 pm ET | Updated Jun 19, 2013

The U.S education system faces a number of challenges, but I think we all can agree that good teachers are the backbone of our education system. Without good teachers, we have nothing. One problem that many schools face is the mass exodus of teachers after only a few years. In fact, 30 percent of new teachers quit before three years and almost 50 percent quit before five years. The biggest reason for leaving? Nope, not pay. It's a little more complex than that. The biggest reason for leaving was the culture. It was satisfaction with working conditions, which included relationships with colleagues, quality of professional development, quality of the curriculum, building conditions, etc.

The complexities of matching a teacher to a school go beyond the typical three-paragraph description that job boards provide like Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com. Schools have different cultures and curricula and teachers have different teaching styles. If they don't match up, teachers leave. And they have been leaving in large numbers.

So how can teachers and schools find the perfect match? That's where technology comes in. Algorithms similar to ones used to match up couples on eHarmony.com, are now being used to match candidates with employers. And, in fact, one company is using algorithms to help match teachers with the right schools.

Called myEDmatch, the job-matching site was the brainchild of co-founders Alicia Herald and Munro Richardson. Herald had the inspiration for a new type of job-matching site by combining the idea of online dating with matching teachers and schools. Instead of waiting later in the "dating process" to find out whether you have compatible interests, myEDmatch provides upfront information that teachers and schools really want to know to make an informed employment decision.

The site is already gaining some traction. It has registered 3,000 teachers and 100 schools from across 17 states. In fact, the site is close to its first hire: a teacher coming from Oklahoma is a match with a brand new charter school in Chicago. The two would have never found each other if it hadn't been for myEDmatch.

Here's how the site works: Teachers and schools set up their own profiles, which are a lot more comprehensive than a typical job search profile. Teacher's profiles are a combinations of a digital resume and a virtual portfolio, where they can upload sample teaching videos, lesson plans and photos of their classroom. Schools can also set up their own profiles and include information not typically found on a school website, like their culture and professional development.

The profiles also consist of drop-down menus and other searchable components so teachers and schools can search for specific fits. For example, teachers can search for a college prep model school in the Northeast, or schools can search for a teacher with a special education certificate looking to relocate to the Northwest.

But the real significant component of MyEDMatch comes down to matching up the right culture.

"There's no one right way to organize a school, and teachers have a variety of preferences for themselves," said Richardson, who previously worked at the Kauffman Foundation before co-founding myEDmatch. "But until this point, there was no easy way for a teacher to say 'this is the kind of teacher I am -- this is what I'm looking for, let me find that kind of school where I will be successful.' And conversely a school that is looking for the right kind of teacher for their school, there's no easy way to find this either."

So myEDmatch has teachers and schools fill out their core beliefs profile about education in seven areas including mission, instruction, planning, professional development, staff culture, student culture and school environment. The site asks teachers what is important for them to be successful in the class room and asks schools similar questions. The site uses algorithms to suggest matches with schools with compatible missions, beliefs, and goals. If the results are similar, there is a match.

Finding the right match is not only beneficial for teachers and schools, but it's vital for students.

"There's pretty impressive evidence that teachers really hit their stride in the classroom between year three and five," Richardson said. "We have hundreds of thousands of teachers quitting every year that never reach their potential, and we as a society and children in the classrooms never reap the benefit of what they can do in the classrooms."

The crippling blow of losing new teachers just as they are hitting their stride was one of the reasons behind the development of myEDmatch. The other was the huge financial cost. The expense of recruiting and training new teachers costs a staggering $7 billion annually according to the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future.

Aside from finding the perfect match, schools are also facing a changing demographic as baby boomers begin to age. As the president of the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future recently stated, "We are about to go through the largest teacher workforce transition in our history, as 1.8 million Baby Boomer teachers prepare for retirement. Education leaders will be hard pressed to replace these experienced veterans with top talent in today's competitive labor market, if they don't get serious about transforming their schools into strong professional workplaces."

But filling classrooms with new teachers is only half the battle, retaining them is vital. Using technology to find the right cultural fit is one of the ways that schools may be able to keep teachers from leaving. Studies show that high-performing schools share a common factor: Teachers and administrators who work there were carefully chosen to fit the organization's culture. Better matches between teachers and schools will not only improve teacher satisfaction, but it will also reduce teacher turnover. Using a dating website as the inspiration for helping teachers and schools find each other is not only genius, but also a little romantic.

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