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PISA 2012: Global Lessons on Prioritizing

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Naima Khandaker, Battelle for Kids Human Capital Specialist, authored to this post. Naima is a former teacher and current education policy nerd who believes that one day soon, education will be great for all kids.

Now that we've had some time to process the 2012 PISA results, questions remain around what high-performing systems are doing to achieve academic excellence. The OECD addresses some of these in its recent publication, PISA 2012 Results: What Makes Schools Successful? In examining the key findings, I was struck by the importance top systems place on not only having adequate resources, but on the quality and strategic distribution of those resources. Rather than try to "do it all," they place their chips on the handful of strategies most likely to lead to increased student performance. These strategies include relatively high teacher salaries, as well as equitable allocation of resources to ensure students of all socioeconomic backgrounds have access to high-quality educational services.

As a result, high-performing systems are adept at developing educators, promoting professional autonomy, and placing talented teachers in the classrooms that need them most. Realizing these priorities sometimes comes at the expense of things like small class size, illustrating top school systems' ability to distinguish between "must haves" and "nice to haves," (which may vary between systems in some cases) and direct their efforts and resources accordingly.

Talent Managers must also make difficult decisions about how to structure and fund their organization's human capital system to achieve the greatest impact. For instance, more resources dedicated to professional development and support systems may leave less funding for employee recruitment and hiring. So, where does your organization place its bets (e.g., selection of high-quality teachers, attractive compensation systems, career advancement opportunities)? And, do you think they are the right bets?

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