Talent Management in Portfolio Districts

November 2010

One of the most important things a school district can do to improve student achievement is ensure that students have effective teachers. Recognizing that human resource management systems are often not up to the task, some urban school districts are reforming how they recruit, hire, develop, and retain teachers by streamlining processes and procedures and aligning them with the district's broader reform strategy.

This paper looks at how such reforms are playing out in two portfolio school districts: New York City and Washington, D.C. Though the districts’ reform efforts differ, together they highlight four courses of action that portfolio—and perhaps traditional—districts can take to transform talent management from a bureaucratic staffing system into a core leadership function:

1. Assign talent strategy to a senior reform executive
2. Distinguish strategy from routine transactions
3. Redesign policies and practices to support flexibility and performance
4. Change the culture to focus on performance

The courses of action outlined in this report are not easy, yet they appear to be critical levers for transforming long-standing bureaucratic staffing systems into a more strategic and crosscutting approach to talent management to better ensure that all students have effective teachers.