Effort Launched to Develop District Leadership Talent

By Lesli A. Maxwell — June 11, 2008 2 min read

Two longtime education experts today launched a new organization to push for transforming how the nation’s largest school districts recruit, retain, develop, and evaluate the teaching and school leadership talent that the advocates argue is key to improving student achievement.

Called Strategic Management of Human Capital, the organization was created by Allan R. Odden, the director of the Consortium for Policy Research in Education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and James A. Kelly, the founding president of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. The two will co-direct what they are calling an “action project,” which will be run out of the CPRE office in Madison.

“This is the [human resources] side of education reform,” Mr. Odden, who is also a professor of educational leadership and policy analysis, said in an interview. “The goal is to improve student performance through redesigning and restructuring the way districts, particularly the large urbans, recruit for and manage teacher and principal talent.”

The project, which Mr. Odden and Mr. Kelly have spent the past year planning, will have several components. One is a 30-member task force of heavy-hitters such as Minnesota’s Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, District of Columbia Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee, New York City Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, and high-level leaders from the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. The task force will be charged with drawing attention to the importance of recruiting top talent into school districts and putting that strategy into practice in their own districts, agencies and organizations that work with schools.

“This will take a wide breadth of participation to move an issue like this forward,” said Mr. Kelly. “And we are not looking for some sort of superficial consensus on this issue. It’s an action project.”

The project also includes a Web site, where educators can engage in dialogue with one another and swap ideas. An inaugural conference for invited district leaders is scheduled for November. There, participants will learn from in-depth case studies on districts and organizations such as New Leaders for New Schools that are already using talent management strategies to improve instruction and boost academic achievement.

The project is supported by a $2 million grant from the Carnegie Corporation and a $1 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which also provide support to Education Week.