Wanted: Transformational Leaders

At TNTP, we spend a lot of time thinking about how to get great teachers and leaders in schools and classrooms (and keep them there). For our partner districts and schools always on the lookout for top talent, that is a priority.

The demand for strong teachers and transformational leaders seems to be growing. Our partner districts and schools struggle to fill their vacancies each year, at the same time as we are seeing declining enrollment rates in schools of education. Schools—particularly those in high-poverty urban and rural areas—are beginning to feel the pressures of a teacher shortage that has been discussed for years, but now seems to have finally arrived. We’re also seeing innovative school design efforts put at risk over a struggle to attract the talent needed to fill pivotal leadership roles.

Meeting schools’ shifting staffing needs requires going beyond traditional recruitment tactics. Luckily, there are plenty of districts thinking outside the recruitment box. Boston Public Schools has radically shifted its hiring timeline to snag stronger candidates. In Memphis, the district has gotten smart about identifying upcoming teacher retirements and using that information to fill their openings earlier, too.

Many districts are also thinking about how to beef up their talent pipelines, to grow the great teachers and particularly the school leaders they need right at home. In Indiana, an interesting idea has emerged. A recent partnership between Indianapolis Public Schools and The Mind Trust, has resulted in the Innovation School Fellowship: a program to attract great school leaders and give them an opportunity to plan and launch new schools with the flexibilities and autonomies of a charter school, while maintaining district financial, facility and transportation support. We know The Mind Trust well; they’ve supported our work in Indianapolis in the past and TNTP’s CEO, Ariela Rozman, sits on their board of directors. We’re excited to see where the Innovation School Fellowship leads.

The first school led by an Innovation School Fellow is slated to launch in the fall of 2015, but the partnership is designed to create nine new schools in the next five years. The first selection round resulted in more than 85 applicants for the two fellowships that were eventually awarded. To help track down the strongest candidates to the program’s future rounds (including this year’s), they launched a referral incentive program, Talent Matters, which offers $5,000 to anyone who refers a candidate who is ultimately selected and remains in the fellowship for at least six months.

At TNTP, the constant need for more great teachers and school leaders keeps us up at night, and we’re always chewing on new ways to ensure schools have sufficient, sustainable talent pipelines. We’ve taken our years of experience running Teaching Fellows programs to help schools and districts implement strategies to grow the number of potential candidates who are considering the profession. And we’re building leadership pipelines in urban districts like Philadelphia, Camden, and Detroit, focusing recruitment on potential school leaders from within the local communities, to create an internal, sustainable pipeline of leaders.

Ultimately, there isn’t going to be a silver bullet solution to the recruitment challenge—like everything else in education. But it’s exciting to see what’s happening across the country as districts start getting creative about recruitment and hiring. As the needs of schools change, so too must the training and career opportunities they offer in order to attract the most diverse and talented pool of candidates possible. For that reason, we’ll continue reimagining pathways into teaching and school leadership—and learning from others in the field who are making strides in this work.

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, stands in front of her students while introducing them to the captivating world of science

Imali Ariyarathne, seventh-grade teacher at Langston Hughes Academy, introduces her students to the captivating world of science.

About TNTP

TNTP is the nation’s leading research, policy, and consulting organization dedicated to transforming America’s public education system, so that every generation thrives.

Today, we work side-by-side with educators, system leaders, and communities across 39 states and over 6,000 districts nationwide to reach ambitious goals for student success.

Yet the possibilities we imagine push far beyond the walls of school and the education field alone. We are catalyzing a movement across sectors to create multiple pathways for young people to achieve academic, economic, and social mobility.

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