This year–as CCER began to expand its work to provide support to public school districts–we partnered with an urban school district serving more than 18,000 Connecticut students. Our plan was to support the District in re-thinking some of its core management systems (e.g. human capital, finance, data, operations, and governance) because we believe that school systems need to have high-quality, strategic systems in place if they are going to effectively implement strategies to raise student achievement.

Our first project was to transform the District’s human capital system. Using the then-existing system, the District was struggling to recruit and retain high-quality teachers and leaders.

In order to transform the human capital system, we broke down our project into two objectives: (a) recommend new strategies for recruitment and hiring; and (b) improve the effectiveness of the District’s human resources (HR) department.

Improving Recruitment Processes

We worked with a group of graduate students from the Yale School of Management (SOM) to help us analyze the District’s processes for recruitment and hiring, and develop recommendations.

One of our key findings was that the District didn’t have a strong recruitment strategy. We helped the District to build a recruitment team comprised of teachers and administrators, and to develop solid marketing materials for recruitment. We also helped the District to move up its hiring timeline so that they could begin making offers to teachers in May, instead of July. By starting too late, the District was missing out on hiring the best candidates. Therefore, we helped them to start attending recruitment fairs (24 from Massachusetts to Virginia) and building relationships with universities in February.

Improving Hiring Processes

Working with the same Yale SOM students, we also made some changes to the District’s hiring processes. We worked with the District to streamline their applicant screening procedure so that potential candidates could move through the process more quickly. We also added a 2-phase interview process, including requiring applicants to demo a 10 minute lesson in their content area. And, we got principals involved in the hiring process early so that the District could hire teachers who matched principals’ needs. The District held its first “Principals’ Roundtable”—which allowed principals to find the best matches by reviewing resumes and selecting candidates together. For the first time, the District was able to move its hiring process enough that it was able to make offers to highly-qualified applicants starting in May.

When the HR department made these changes to recruitment and hiring, they saw a drastic improvement. They were able to make approximately fifty offers early on in the process. Before, the District had started the school year with over 25 teacher-less classrooms. But this year, only 1 classroom started the year without a teacher in it.

Improving the Effectiveness of the Human Resources Department

Next, we analyzed how the human resources department itself was running, and we found several clear problems. The Department didn’t have a clearly defined organizational structure, resulting in a general lack of communication, a resultant lack of collaboration, and, at the end of the day, a lot of inefficiency.

In order to figure out why this was happening, we interviewed every member of the Department and developed a list of departmental functions. Based upon that list, we wrote clear job descriptions and built an organization chart to develop coordinated job functions and a chain of command within the Department. Once this place is running more smoothly, it’s going to be so much more efficient at accomplishing its mission. We can’t wait to see the long-term results!

CCER is so pleased to have been able to work with this district’s leaders to provide supports to the human resources department. A smoothly functioning HR department will allow the District to place more excellent teachers, leaders, and support staff in its schools, and our students deserve nothing less.

CCER’s services are free to Connecticut’s 30 lowest-performing districts. CCER is in the process of expanding our work. If you know of a Connecticut school district that would benefit from a similar analysis (or needs help with another core management system), please contact Scott Sugarman, Director of Education Transformation, at scott.sugarman@ctedreform.org.

Tune in later this week to hear about another project CCER recently undertook to provide district-level supports.