The SGS Levers


4 // Attract & retain high-quality talent


+ Good leaders and teachers are critical to school success. Developing a talent strategy is a multi-year process, but there are actions you can take in the near term to pick up “quick wins” as you develop your long-term view.

Look to Sublever 4.1 for guidance on specific, and implementable processes that can get you hiring better teachers and leaders soon. This involves taking a hard look at your district’s hiring processes and determining ways to communicate more clearly to applicants and streamline the process.

Sublever 4.2 covers longer-term solutions to ensuring your talent pipeline is stocked with high-quality teachers and leaders in specific areas of need. This work necessarily covers a longer time-horizon but the dividends (as you will see from selected TNTP case studies provided in “Essential Resources”) can be great.

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4.1 Develop processes to identify and address school talent needs


+ SGS districts rely on empowered principals managing autonomous schools and dedicated teachers to staff those schools.

Hiring top school talent - both leaders and teachers - can be a complicated and unpredictable task. However, there are some general guidelines that inform how a district should approach this process that can reduce some of the uncertainty and specific, simple steps central offices can take to remove some, if not all of the guesswork.

The central office must adopt a customer service orientation when it comes to dealing with school leaders seeking to hire and applicants seeking to be hired. This means that central office hiring processes must be designed with the end-user in mind. How will an applicant express interest? Who at the central office is communicating with leaders and applicants? How many touchpoints are needed with applicants and when will these occur? The key to attracting and hiring quality talent is to reduce, as much as possible, the burden on the applicant.

Reducing burden is primarily a function of constant communication and connectivity. Design hiring processes to ensure that applicants always know where they are in the process, communicate early and often.

Another key element to reducing burden is the creation of clear templates and specific, deliberate standardization of all hiring processes. The central office should focus creating and publishing clear process maps that delineate all steps of hiring processes and making sure that applicants and school leaders can access these process-flows.

Lastly, the most important customer is the school leader. An empowered school leader is the key element of the SGS strategy. The central office must prioritize the provision of high-quality applicants that specifically meet the needs of the school leader and ensure that he or she has final say over who will work in her building.

The above are some general principles that outline how a central office should think about this work. These principles take the form of specific, actionable changes the central office can make that embody customer service and empower school leaders.

+ While the hiring processes can be messy, there is a general sequence to acquiring talent that can serve as a framework for taking specific actions to support empowered school leaders.

Get the data right and use it:

Clearly define your district’s definition of quality teaching and expected competencies or credentials of qualified staff and then, develop a hiring rubric that matches this definition.

Work closely with school leaders and use historical data to determine where talent gaps exist in the district now and over the next few years.

Identify major barriers to increasing the number of effective teachers in the applicant pool (i.e. not enough candidates in system, poor tracking systems, slow hiring process, compensation, etc.).

Focus on talent sources:

Identify current sources of top job candidates and employees.

Develop relationships with these organizations and create or access incentives to build a strong partnership (see Sublever 4.2 for more information).

Seek alternative pathways or pipelines with proven talent providers and implement a talent pipeline partnership (see Sublever 4.2 for more information).

Recruit early and deliberately:

Identify openings and start recruitment activities early – ideally by the beginning of March.

Prepare and launch multi-pronged marketing campaign (social media, online, billboards, newspaper, etc.) with a clear focus on what makes your district unique and what competencies and fit you are looking for.

Once identified, aggressively recruit high-performing principal and teacher candidates. Create systems to ensure investment in and responsiveness to high-quality candidates.

Develop a standard hiring process:

Use standard interview techniques to enhance your ability to assess candidates’ competencies and fit within the organization.

Require demonstration of a sample lesson during the interview process. Use evaluation rubric aligned to district’s hiring criteria.

Allow teachers to have input on where they will be placed.

Hire candidates early - ideally by May 1.

Create a robust, effective onboarding process to welcome and support new teachers.

Keep improving:

Set clear goals for hiring and tracking progress through the process.

Reflect on “hits” and “misses” and determine which avenues or methods of recruitment yielded the best candidates.

Evaluate and refine your strategy and set new goals for the following year.

+ Many districts focus on the procedural or tactical aspects of Human Resources and deprioritize the strategic elements. It is critical to identify a leader with the strategic vision to drive this work.

Identify a leader: Reorienting talent work may coincide with the district’s broader reorganization discussed in Lever 5. Consider naming a “Chief Talent Officer” to lead the talent work. This individual should have strong relationships with other Central Office functions (particularly finance and academics) and with school leaders.

Assemble the team: The Chief Talent Officer should be empowered to build a team with a capacity to use data, build and manage clear processes, and work efficiently and kindly with applicants and school leaders.

Get started! Refer to the above high-level steps and the detailed sublever brief for more information on how and where to launch the work. The New Teacher Project also has a variety of helpful resources available on their website for further exploration.

4.2 Design and implement talent pipeline partnerships with talent providers


+ An effective talent strategy ultimately depends on strong partnerships with talent providers to ensure your district has consistent access to great leaders and teachers.

Districts across the United States have been forming productive relationships with talent providers. Potential partners generally take two forms: local universities and national partners. These are not mutually exclusive. You should design a program that brings you the best teachers and whether that involves local or national partners, or both, will depend on your district’s context.

+ Prioritize your talent needs by analyzing where your strengths and opportunities. Start with your current staff. Where are your best teachers and leaders coming from? What can you do to get more of them?

Conduct an analysis to gain a clear understanding of what your talent needs are over the next several years. Set goals for numbers of teachers in specific content areas (XX% increase in math teachers by 2020).

Examine your current leader/teacher pool and identify where your best educators are coming from. Target partnerships with these programs.

Partner with programs that share a common vision and goals. Many districts have been successful in co-developing programs with preparation programs that embed necessary competencies and training methods that align with your district’s needs.

Denver Public Schools (DPS) partnered with local universities to develop three additional teacher preparation programs to train teachers using different training preferences. In the Denver Teacher Residency program, candidates receive master’s degrees and commit to teaching in DPS for at least five years. DPS also developed a program called "Denver Teach Today" that provides an expedited path to licensure.

Ensure tight alignment on expectations for students and commit to a continuous improvement process. Create a plan to ensure that prospective teachers’ clinical experiences align with course content. Share tools and rubrics as much as possible. Districts and preparation programs should also commit to sharing and reviewing data together to evaluate program effectiveness. Data should include student achievement and teacher performance and retention.

+ Work from your current assets by assigning a leader to manage this work and mine your district’s current relationships to get the partnership conversation started.

Consider financial incentives to create and strengthen relationships with these programs. In Denver, the district offers a $10,000 stipend to teacher candidates during the residency year. They also received a Teacher Quality Partnership grant awarded from 2010-15. Denver Teach Today is funded through the DPS budget with some funds coming from a federal Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) grant. The Student Teacher Residency was awarded a $250,000 grant from a local philanthropic organization.

If one exists, leverage a citywide philanthropic organization (Sublever 6.2) to support partnerships with proven talent providers

Assign a high-level district leader (e.g. superintendent, Chief Talent Officer, Deputy Superintendent) to lead the process and implement key strategies to develop these partnerships.

Find key contacts within teacher preparation programs aligned to your district’s goals. The start of the partnership process may begin with conversations with mission-aligned deans of education, individual professors, directors of teacher placement, or career services representatives.