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Building a Talent Decision Map for K-12 Human Capital

How School Systems Can Promote Strategic Talent Management at Scale

Principals have a huge impact on student success, especially in their role as instructional leaders. But being an instructional leader is not just about observations and feedback—it's about building a great teacher corps through hiring, job and team assignment, professional learning opportunities, a compelling career path, retaining effective teachers, and more. It's about becoming a strategic human capital manager—not making decisions based on compliance, happenstance, or tradition.

But school leaders can't do it alone. School systems can empower all principals to be strategic talent managers—by mapping out the what, who, when, and how, and organizing data, support, and timelines around the most critical K-12 human capital decisions in the year. Building a Talent Decision Map: How School Systems Can Promote Strategic Talent Management at Scale explains how to create coherence among the roles of teachers, principals, principal supervisors and the central office, using "guiding questions" to make better decisions that maximize K-12 human capital, organize a calendar that manages that talent, and use data effectively.



The Talent Decision Planner: A tool for managing K-12 human capital

The paper also introduces The Talent Decision Planner (summary here), a new tool that helps central HR teams map out:

  • What human capital decisions are priorities for your district 
  • Who should make what types of decisions
  • When in the year
  • How—choosing guiding questions that push everyone’s thinking past compliance to strategy, and choosing what data serve each question

The tool comes with:

  • Research-backed content: We bucket the K-12 human capital decisions into six categories and provide the most impactful decisions and guiding questions for each decision maker, based on research, our experience, and feedback from leaders in the field. We also suggest when in the year each decision should be made, laid out in a calendar. See this summary of the decision buckets and decision makers (PDF) (Full content is available in Building a Talent Decision Map and in the tool)
  • Customization: You can add, delete, edit, reassign, or defer decisions or guiding questions to match your district's context and constraints when it comes to managing your K-12 human capital. You can also change when in the year a decision should be made.
  • Ability to create supporting materials: You can create the following "K-12 human capital decision guides" to give to teachers, principals, principal supervisors or for the central office team:
  • Guidance to create a data action plan: You can prioritize what human capital data your district needs, has, or has to gather to inform the guiding questions you have identified. While the tool does not house or analyze data, it will create an "action plan" to guide your data teams in every step of the process of optimizing your K-12 human capital. We have also created sample data views to show how data can be shared with decision makers.

Please note: To access the tool you need to be signed in with your ERS Account. It's quick, free, and allows you to save your work on any ERS tool. Instructions are on the next page!


Excerpt from the paper

Building a Map—and Using It to Support Principals in Managing Their K-12 Human Capital

How can school systems ensure strategic decision-making when it comes to human capital for all K-12 schools? And do so in ways that honor teachers, empower school leaders, spread best practices, and evolve over time—not by increasing mandates from the central office? Central office teams have a unique opportunity to achieve these aims by setting up a clear, coherent system of supports for strategic management of their K-12 human capital. This means mapping out four key ingredients:

  • What strategic K-12 human capital management should look like—and how it breaks down into clear decisions
  • Who should play what role in decision-making—including how teachers contribute to their own professional development, how principal supervisors advise and support, and what decisions the central office owns
  • When key decisions should be made, and how district timelines and processes will change to support them
  • How to make strategic decisions supported by guiding questions and relevant data as well as judgment, experience, and thought-partnership with supervisors and others

Central office teams should do this mapping in partnership with stakeholders—including teachers, principals, principal supervisors, and other central office departments. And the map is just the start. The information could be translated into supporting documents or supervisor training materials such as decision calendars or monthly support packets with guiding questions and notes on best practices. It could point toward data that needs to be gathered, cleaned up, and given to principals and others at the right time, paired with the right support. It can serve as a guide to how the central office needs to adjust timelines, processes, and policies to support principals and teachers in its K-12 human capital management strategy.

The what, who, when and how of an effective K-12 human capital system.

The Importance of Strategic Talent Management (also called K-12 human capital management)

Awareness of the importance of talent management is growing. Stanford University researchers Eileen Horng and Susanna Loeb use a related term, “organizational management” and have found that “schools demonstrating growth in student achievement are more likely to have principals who are strong organizational managers.” The Center for Educational Leadership and The Wallace Foundation both advocate for expanding instructional leadership to include K-12 human capital management skills. And the Urban Schools Human Capital Academy, which has conducted K-12 human capital work with more than 30 urban school districts, was created specifically to develop, support, and network district leaders “to become great managers of teacher and principal talent” and drive measurable talent improvements at the system-level. Additionally, in 2008, a set of district and state leaders came together as the Strategic Management of Human Capital Task Force. The task force developed a set of principles for the strategic management of K-12 human capital in public education, highlighting the need for system-wide alignment between learning goals, curriculum, standards, assessments, organization, professional development, human resources, and administration. They define “strategic management” as “…the systematic process of aligning school district goals with school district organization and practices, from curriculum and assessment to teacher and administrator recruitment, retention, and compensation.”

“Strategically managing human capital in K-12 education is about restructuring the entire human resource system.” —Allan Odden Director of Strategic Management of Human Capital, a project of the Consortium for Policy Research in Education.

Spotlight on Tulsa

When ERS worked with Tulsa Public Schools (TPS) the district used a “calendar item” as an opportunity to map their what, who, when, and how, with a particular focus on principal coaching. TPS has a role called Talent Management Partners, who work with principals to understand their K-12 human capital data and plan next steps. Every spring, Talent Management Partners would meet with principals in what are called “STAT meetings” to discuss staff performance and upcoming vacancies. TPS wanted to build out the fall STAT meeting to help principals with the key K-12 human capital management decisions they make in the winter and spring. To plan out the structure of these fall STAT conversations, the central office convened a group of stakeholders and used the Talent Decision Planner tool to map out the decisions that principals need to make and identify how the Talent Management Partners should support them. They then matched each decision to a set of guiding questions and identified the data needed to inform those guiding questions.

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