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Selecting Staff for Career Ladder Positions

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One of the great things about my job is that I have the honor of working with some of the most innovative, creative, and gutsy school-based organizations. For instance, my colleagues and I just returned from a trip to Phoenix, Arizona, where we are working with the Maricopa County Education Service Agency (ESA) on teacher and principal selection processes for their new career ladder program.

Career ladders have become more and more popular in education. When developed correctly, they provide opportunities for high-performing educators to advance professionally, often while allowing them to maintain a presence where they are needed the most--in classrooms. This is in stark contrast to the traditional method of career advancement in schools, which often asks effective teachers to choose between working directly with students or moving into higher-paying administrative positions.

There has been mixed reaction to career ladders in education. Some districts are exploring career ladder systems that integrate professional development, evaluations and compensation. These are a talent manager's dream come true. However, due to poorly-executed reform efforts in other districts and states, some educators now view "career ladders" as a bad word.

Six districts within Maricopa County are working to develop tools and processes for selecting career pathway candidates through the REIL (Rewarding Excellence in Instruction and Leadership). Maricopa County ESA received a $51.5 million Teacher Incentive Fund grant to support this work.

Maricopa County ESA aims to place more than 500 teachers and principals in five career pathways: Master Educator, Turnaround Teacher, Turnaround Principal, Peer Evaluators, and In-Demand Teachers. I know no other districts that have attempted to place that many people in career ladder roles.

Maricopa County ESA engaged Battelle for Kids as a partner to help carry out this large-scale initiative. We are working with district leadership to develop a multiple data point hiring system that is reliable, valid, transparent, and sustainable. (Everyone's ultimate dream!) The following is a list of 15 "things to remember," when designing selection systems for career ladder programs:

1. It's ALL about the kids; don't lose sight!
2. Every hire is important. Retaining top employees makes a world of difference.
3. Communication is KEY.
4. Transparency brings trust.
5. The district career ladder program should further the district's strategy.
6. Talent and performance management through aligned systems is the goal (Do data management, evaluation, recruitment, compensation, and recognition systems align?)
7. Identify and rely on your core competencies.
8. Hiring should be one piece of a strategic, comprehensive human capital development system.
9. These programs take time, MAKE IT!
10. Know the law...and if you don't, call your legal counsel.
11. Have a consistent hiring and selection process and stick to it!
12. Customer service is critical. When hiring, the interviewee is trying to decide if he/she wants to be part of your organization. At the same time, you're trying to decide if that person is a good fit.
13. Using multiple measures (as long as they're the RIGHT measures) reduces error or bias.
14. Always think about sustainability; not just in a financial context, but programmatically as well.
15. Change is hard, but not changing can be disastrous.

An important part of growing talent in schools means putting people in the best position to maximize their skills and contribution to the organization. When done right, career ladders have the potential to accelerate the growth of talented teachers and principals and lead to improved results for students.

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The opinions expressed in K-12 Talent Manager are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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