First Impressions Matter: The Performance of Music Teacher Candidates on Prescreening Interview Instruments


Ryan D. Shaw, Capital University


Amidst the considerable research attention devoted to the various dimensions of teacher quality over the last 50 years, scholars have debated raising entrance requirements and/or exiting ineffective teachers based on value-added measures (Hanushek, 2009). However, the viability of such suggestions rests on who would fill vacant teaching positions. Scholars have differed on whether the “teacher pipeline” is robust enough to ensure that less effective teachers would be replaced with average or highly effective teachers (Dee & Wyckoff, 2015; Rockoff, Jacob, Kane, & Staiger, 2011; Staiger & Rockoff, 2010).


The teacher hiring process is a site of scrutiny for those studying the teacher pipeline. While much teacher hiring is localized and focused on semi-structured interviews, many larger districts have made use of commercial prescreening interview instruments such as the Star Teacher Pre-Screener (Haberman, 1995), Ventures for Excellence (now HumanEx Ventures) interview and Gallup’s Teacher Perceiver Interview (TPI). While vendors claim to have validated the instruments using a measure of predictive validity (often based on observed characteristics of a group of excellent teachers), peer-reviewed evidence is almost impossible to find or suggests a lack of predictive validity (Ebmeier & Ng, 2005; Metzger & Wu, 2008). Following scholarship that has investigated the validity of various measures of teacher quality/effectiveness for music educators (see Elpus, 2015; Parkes & Powell, 2015; Maranzano, 2000; Taebel, 1990), a next logical step would be to examine the validity of prescreening instruments for music educators, since these are a pervasive measure controlling the music teacher pipeline. The purpose of this study was to investigate the performance of music teacher job candidates on prescreening interview instruments in five Midwestern school districts. Research questions were:

        How do music teacher job candidates perform in relation to educators from other licensure areas on several common prescreener interview instruments?

        What are human resources (HR) professionals’ perceptions of the areas of prescreening interview instruments that may positively or negatively affect music teacher candidates’ performance?


This study employed a multiple case study design (Stake, 2006), investigating five Midwestern school districts that used different combinations of commercial prescreeners, and data sources included interviews with human resources (HR) professionals involved in hiring certified personnel for each of the district, as well as numerical examples of performance on the screening instruments.


Findings suggested that prescreener instruments revealed differences between primary and secondary licensure areas, with participants noting that primary candidates scored higher in general, especially on areas addressing a teacher’s empathy and compassion. Music candidates were felt to mirror secondary candidates in performance, and participants suggested that prospective music educators operated with a “coach” mentality. Participants felt that music teachers had difficulty discussing individual student development and instead focused on policies and directing a large program. Music teacher candidates were thought to excel on components addressing problem-solving, creativity, and mastery. In addition, participants discussed ways in which they personalize or “flex” prescreener instruments depending on licensure type and applicant pool. The study has important policy implications for those studying music teacher preparation, quality, and personnel issues.




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