Date: 
Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Study Shows Charter Management Organizations Emphasize Mission and Organizational Fit in Hiring Practices

Seattle, WA - As school systems across the country work to recruit and hire more high-quality teachers, a new report by the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) finds that leaders in the charter sector hire teachers based on their fit with a school's mission, and not just their individual characteristics and talent, as a way to build strong schools.

Managing Talent for Coherence: Learning from Charter Management Organizations shows how some charter management organizations (CMOs) have created personnel systems that hire, develop, and reward teachers who best suit their approach and mission. CMOs are nonprofit entities that directly manage public charter schools. The report's authors relied on data from case studies and surveys of school leaders and CMO administrators gathered as part of "The National Study of Charter Management Organization Effectiveness," a three-year project conducted by CRPE and Mathematica Policy Research.

"[A]s reformers continue to push public education away from compliance-driven human resource policies and toward performance-driven approaches," the authors write, "they need to ask not only how they can hire and reward effective teachers, but also how they can build talent management systems that get the right teachers in the right schools and create coherent work environments that develop and support their performance."

According to the report, the CMOs in this study used three broad strategies to find and develop their teachers:

Recruiting and hiring for fit. CMO leaders sought out teachers with the attitudes, skills, and knowledge they valued; used focused recruitment messages to communicate their mission and expectations for teachers; and watched candidates teach and interact with members of the school community. When making a job offer, CMOs reported that a teacher's commitment to the school's mission was far more important than experience, training, or content knowledge.

Intensive socialization on the job. The CMOs in the study continually socialized teachers toward their school's particular goals and strategies. They did this in large part by insisting that teachers and principals watch each other work and constantly share information about the schools' expectations and assess how people were performing.

Purposeful pay and career advancement opportunities. Exceptional teachers were often given opportunities to work as staff developers or to start new schools. Some CMOs avoided the typical experience and education salary schedule in favor of a more flexible, performance-based approach to compensation. These promotions and rewards were often determined by a combination of student performance and the professional judgment of leaders, rather than by hard-and-fast performance metrics or assessments.

Most CMOs are non-unionized, giving them more freedom to experiment with new approaches to labor practices than is the case in traditional school districts. As a result, not all of the CMO practices highlighted in the report can easily be transferred to traditional school districts and union contracts. Nevertheless, the practices highlighted in the report do suggest some ways districts might develop a more intentional, coherent approach to personnel management. For example, districts could:

  • Press schools to decide what skills and values their teachers need to be successful
  • Help to create recruiting messages that communicate those priorities
  • Build relationships with different training programs that deliver the right teachers
  • Incorporate demonstration lessons and other assessments into the hiring process
  • Develop classroom-based teacher supports aligned to each school's values and practices
  • Provide career opportunities and financial rewards for teachers who exemplify the type of teaching the district wants, beyond raising test scores

States and school districts around the country are putting a lot of time and resources into revamping their approaches to human capital. As they do so, paying attention to the best practices of CMOs may help ensure coherent systems that put the right teachers in the right schools and keep them there.

Researchers Michael DeArmond, Betheny Gross, Melissa Bowen, Allison Demeritt, and Robin Lake contributed to the report.