The Educator

The Educator

Former award-winning principal creates tool for schools to hire best teachers

By Eugene Curtin

More than 500 school districts across the nation are doing a better job of matching teachers with schools because of a teacher-assessment model created, built and eventually sold by Creighton alumnus Donald Fraynd, PhD, BA’94, MA’97.

Fraynd is a co-founder of TeacherMatch, a psychometric teacher-assessment program — which he developed after working as a teacher and administrator in Omaha and Chicago schools.

Before launching TeacherMatch, the former Chicago high school principal had developed a school improvement model that was embraced by the Chicago Public Schools and then adopted by the U.S. Department of Education as a required component of its School Improvement Grant Program.

Fraynd graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology from Creighton in 1994 and a Master of Arts degree in Christian spirituality in 1997, creating the Awakenings campus retreat along the way. His doctorate in educational leadership and policy analysis was awarded by the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2004.

While all of this boded well for a successful career in education, it could hardly have predicted the profound impact Fraynd would soon have on one of the nation’s most imposing school districts, an impact that would lead directly to the founding of TeacherMatch.

In 2008, after serving five years as a high school principal in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), Fraynd was asked by CPS Superintendent Arne Duncan to create an Office of School Improvement designed to turn around the district’s toughest schools.

The invitation followed Fraynd’s achievement as principal, where his school was rated one of the top 100 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report and captured the first U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon Schools Award ever granted to a CPS high school.

Fraynd says the plight of children in failing inner-city schools is rarely fully understood.

“What people often don’t understand is that kids in these schools are suffering from a tremendous amount of trauma,” he explains. “They live in extremely violent neighborhoods, always with the fear of getting hurt on the way home.

“A lot of relatives and people they know get shot in the neighborhood, nights and weekends, so if you don’t bring structure to the school to help address that trauma, then you’re never going to change the culture. So we did a lot around anger control, cognitive behavior trauma counseling and restorative justice to teach them how to deal with conflict.

“Once they feel loved and cared for, and safe, then they can start paying attention in class.”

Evening classes were held for high school students who had to work during the day to support their children or siblings; distance classes were made available; community leaders were brought in to offer encouragement; and seminars were held to impress upon parents the importance of making sure their children attend school.

The results were impressive enough that when Duncan became President Barack Obama’s secretary of education in 2009, he incorporated the program into national standards that must be met by school districts seeking federal aid.

Fraynd left CPS in 2012 and with some colleagues formed TeacherMatch.

They were all convinced, Fraynd says, based on their collective experience, that teacher quality was the single greatest predictor of student success. They were also convinced that schools often hired teachers arbitrarily. TeacherMatch provided an objective assessment system through which schools could focus their hiring on the top five or 10 candidates for a position.

It performed so well that, earlier this year, the TeacherMatch program was acquired by PeopleAdmin. What PeopleAdmin bought was a system that had been adopted by more than 500 school districts, ranging from the Miami-Dade County Public Schools with 330,000 students to a one-school district in rural Minnesota.