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District Design


Starting From:

An isolated job, uneven distribution of expertise and experience, and career paths and compensation that are unconnected to results or contribution. 

Moving To:

Teachers have the time and support for team collaboration and learning, they are strategically hired and assigned, and their career paths and compensation enable growth and reward contribution.

What is the opportunity?

We can change the odds for teachers and students if school systems fundamentally restructure the teaching job, including how we hire, assign, support, evaluate, compensate, retain, and dismiss teachers. Schools need to organize differently to create time for teacher teams to collaborate and learn together, and opportunities for teacher leaders to share their expertise and improve teacher and student learning. Principals need support and flexibility to select, assign and help their teachers grow into the roles that help other teachers and students grow. Career path and compensation structures need revision to ensure that we attract and keep the best teachers over time.

The Human Capital Framework


Dig Deeper


Effective professional learning is embedded into the teaching job, and teachers learn and grow through the daily work of improving instruction – in teams, and through feedback with expert support.

What is the opportunity?

In a typical district, there are substantial resources invested in professional development. However, most PD tends to be based around one-off workshops, university classes, conferences, and online modules that are disconnected from real-life practice. 

In a Strategic System, effective professional learning connects teacher development to daily practice through rigorous, comprehensive curricula and assessments; content-focused, expert-led collaboration; and frequent, growth-oriented feedback. Teacher teams develop and review lesson plans based in their specific curricula, and analyze student assessment results together. When teacher leaders observe their peers, they focus on the themes raised during collaborative time and provide real-time, actionable feedback. Instructional experts work across the elements, adapting curricular materials, leading collaborative planning, and observing and providing feedback to teachers.


Leaders of high-performing schools and systems view hiring and assignment as the foundation to a great teaching force and overall school performance.

What is the opportunity?

In a typical district, a large proportion of teachers are hired in the month before school starts; some face a dwindling teacher applicant pool; others have not aligned hiring processes to recruit and select the best teachers early enough.

In a Strategic System, every time a school leader hires a new teacher, she evaluates what skills the school, position, and teaching team require, and hires strategically to meet those needs. The district supports schools by aligning hiring, budgeting, and enrollment projection processes; supporting principals as talent managers; and evaluating recruiting best practices. Systems also have policies that encourage highly effective teachers to go to highest-need schools. 


Measuring teaching effectiveness accurately is a crucial element in ensuring that every student has a high-performing teacher. 

What is the opportunity?

In a typical district, evaluation is viewed as a punitive measure, aimed at finding and removing ineffective teachers. Teachers are reviewed based on a handful of classroom observations, augmented with the subjective assessment of a principal or supervisor.

In a Strategic System, accurate and trusted evaluations are the key to personalizing each teacher’s development, role, and career path. Performance measures allow systems to identify each teacher’s areas of strength, give them opportunities to extend their reach in that area, and compensate them accordingly. And in the rare cases teachers do not reach the district’s performance standards, they provide a fair and transparent way to both make sure teachers are given a chance to improve, and to make sure that teacher who do not improve, do not continue in the profession.


Districts must strategically invest in compensation systems that reward the best teachers or provide incentives to improve and contribute.

What is the opportunity?

In a typical district, teacher salary structures treat all teachers equally, rewarding teachers for years of experience and course credits regardless of their performance or contribution. Yet research suggests that neither experience nor master’s degrees are strongly and consistently correlated with teaching effectiveness. Additionally, the base salary for many teachers discourages young people from entering the profession or working in the highest-need communities.

In a Strategic System, school system leaders work to improve the entire “value proposition” of the teaching job—including salary, benefits, working conditions, and opportunities for advancement. Leaders consider investing more in the areas where it is hardest to get and keep teachers: in the early career stages, in hard to staff subjects or high need schools, or to reward teachers for taking on greater leadership responsibilities. 

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