Date: 
Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A talent management strategy can help improve public schools

Seattle, WA - As school districts nationwide rethink how they recruit, develop, and retain teachers, a new working paper from the Center on Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) looks at how these reforms are playing out in certain districts as they align talent management with their broader portfolio school district reform strategy.

Authors Christine Campbell and Michael DeArmond describe HR reforms in portfolio districts as a crosscutting talent strategy that examines how the entire system, not just the district's human resource department, helps or hinders the district's ability to attract and retain the teachers, principals, and central office administrators it needs.

To illustrate this approach, the paper focuses on two school districts, New York City and Washington, D.C., where leaders are transforming talent management from a bureaucratic staffing system into a core leadership function. The paper highlights four courses of actions leaders in these districts have taken as part of their talent strategy:

  • Assigning the talent strategy to a senior reform executive, who is charged with overseeing policies and practices for the entire employee lifecycle, including sourcing, deployment, development, performance management, rewards, and retention or termination.
  • Distinguishing the strategic focus on recruitment, promotion, and termination from such routine transactions as processing hiring paperwork, leave-of-absence requests, and payroll and benefits.
  • Redesigning policies and practices to support flexibility and performance. New York renegotiated its teacher contract, giving principals more control over hiring, curtailing seniority privileges, ending bumping practices, and requiring excessed teachers to reapply for vacancies instead of being placed in them. D.C. revised teacher certification rules to expand the pool of teacher applicants.
  • Changing the central office culture to focus on performance. Both New York and D.C. hired new bloodî from outside the district to help lead their talent management initiatives, asked staff to reapply for their positions, and stressed customer service and accountability in conducting human resource responsibilities.

As the report notes, these initiatives can be controversial because they challenge well-established interests and long-held practices. Nevertheless, developing and pursuing a talent management strategy offers some promising new tools for districts to use as they rethink their approach to talent, their most important resource for improving student performance.

Talent Management in Portfolio Districts is part of a series of reports from CRPE's Portfolio School Districts Project.