Managing Talent for School Coherence: Learning from Charter Management Organizations

The Center for Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) takes a look at how strong charter management organizations manage staff to maximize the instructional and cultural coherence of the school.

The report uses data collected from a study of charter management organizations (CMOs) by Mathematica Policy Research and CRPE. The data includes interviews with nearly 150 teachers and leaders in 10 CMOs along with survey information from 37 central offices and more than 220 principals. The authors examined CMOs which had practical control (they could remove principals), were brick-and-mortar schools serving general student populations, and operated at least four or more charters.

Generally, the study found CMOs managed their teacher talent to impact cultural coherence using three levers.

First, they recruited and hired for fit. This can include targeting pipelines such as Teach For America and other teacher programs or schools that match their own school’s work culture and ideals. One hiring strategy is to communicate clearly what the school values most to its prospective candidates; another is to require applicants to submit sample lesson plans or to teach demonstration lessons (to gauge how they interact with students). Some CMOs involved other school community members, such as students and parents, to discern soft skills. 

Second, they used intensive and ongoing socialization. Teachers reported they received feedback from both formal and informal observations given by their principal and peers. Not only did they cover instructional methods along with responding to behaviors, but the evaluations were expected to result in improving what is going on in the class room and ultimately helping students be successful. Real time feedback is given as a way to support teachers in executing the schools vision and to hold them accountable.

Third, they align pay and advancement to organizational goals. Teachers who excelled could be offered work in coaching and development as a way of supporting organizational goals and improving teacher practice. Monetary incentives were provided in the schools surveyed for taking on extra duties along with individual and school performance bonuses. Interestingly enough, the leaders’ professional opinion mattered more than assessments or performance metrics, when rewards were used. 

The report draws a number of conclusions that can benefit the approach other charter and traditional districts take in using a more integrated approach to recruiting and keeping talent. By creating a cohesive process for recruitment, evaluation, and rewards, these schools have built an environment where teachers clearly know the expectations and what they can do to impact the school’s instructional and cultural coherence. District leaders can learn from the way CMOs manage talent if they are able to give the freedoms and supports along with the process.

Managing Talent for School Coherence
Center on Reinventing Public Education
Michael DeArmond, Betheny Gross, Melissa Bowen, Allison Demerritt, and Robin Lake
May 2012

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