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A Strategic Approach to Attract, Engage, Grow & Retain K-12 Talent
Research continues to show that the greatest single impact on student success lies with the educator. And yet teachers are leaving the field at alarming rates, while fewer and fewer new graduates fill their place.
With limited time, resources and funding, how can school systems address the challenges of managing employees? This challenge is not an "HR problem." It requires the support and experience of every leader in the district. It requires a strategic approach to attracting, engaging, growing and retaining K-12 talent.
Key Indicators of a Strong Strategy
While this looks different in every school system, some key indicators of a strong human capital management strategy emerge as you look at the successes across many districts.
Building and maintaining a high-performing employee culture
Unified view of recruiting, hiring, developing and retaining employees
Setting goals and measuring results using data and benchmarks
Employee engagement, efficiency and effectiveness
The Innovators: School Districts Who Are Leading the Way
From making data-driven decisions to launching teacher-driven professional learning programs, these districts are taking innovative and strategic approaches to human capital management.
School Districts Challenging How We Attract and Retain Educators:
Blue Valley Schools at a Glance:
Student Population: 22,000+
Certified staff: 1,848
Classified staff: 1,418
Location: Overland Park, KS
Blue Valley Schools
An exemplary teacher in every classroom
"The primary root of our success is in the strength of our teaching staff."
Known for its high academic performance, Blue Valley Schools earned first place as Niche Rankings' 2017 Best Places to Teach in Kansas. They're home to the 2017 Kansas Teacher of the Year, and their students outperformed
nearly every education system in the world in math and science on the PSA exam.
As Chief Human Resources Officer Bob Kreifels tells it, "The primary root of our success is in the strength of our teaching staff."
Recognizing the impact of educators on students, one of the district's strategic goals is to have an exemplary teacher in every classroom. That means not only attracting top talent, but engaging, growing and retaining them.
"With the teacher shortage, retention is very important to us, and we want to keep high-quality and exemplary teachers if at all possible," Bob explained.
The district started with gathering data. They conducted interviews with principals, surveyed their exemplary teachers and conducted both "stay interviews" and exit interviews to learn how to make the district "irresistible."
"We heard loud and clear that support and professional learning were very important to our applicants," Bob said.
Gathering the data and implementing solutions is a cross-departmental, collaborative initiative. The Human Resources, Academic Services and Professional Learning teams work together to connect their recruiting, professional learning and retention strategies. They partner on initiatives like new hire onboarding and a two-year mentorship program for new teachers.
The district also monitors employee data – including recruiting and hiring trends, employee absences, professional learning and employee evaluations – in one human capital management software platform.
As Bob explains, “Connected systems help us have a broader view... It brings our professional learning, our curriculum and instruction and our hiring and recruiting processes together. Ultimately, all of those play a part in student achievement. Now, we have that data available and that data is connected. It provides a much richer conversation and ultimately leads to better instruction and better learning experiences for our kids.”
Want to learn more about what fuels Blue Valley's success?
Atlanta Public Schools at a Glance:
Student Population: 51,000+
Certified staff: 3,876
Classified staff: 3,046
Location: Atlanta, GA
Atlanta Public Schools
Insights inform an instruction-focused approach to absences
"It was a win-win for everyone."
Atlanta Public Schools saw their average fill rate rise from 79% with their previous absence management system to 96% with Frontline Absence & Time. But to take it a step further, they compared their data to national
benchmarks from the Frontline Research & Learning Institute.
"National benchmarks of K-12 data are so important to us," says Skye Duckett, Deputy Chief HR Officer. "It gives us a little more insight into how we're doing compared to other people, not just how we're doing compared to last quarter or last year."
Administrators found that they directly caused or approved 32% of employee absences — 14% higher than the national average. Those professionally-related absences could cost the district $1.8 million in substitute wages in just one year. Even worse, the lost instructional time was estimated at over 90,000 total student days.
Skye was not surprised to find that many absences were for professional development and other professionally-related reasons. However, she was surprised by the short lead time. 55% of professionally-related absences were requested within 4 days of the absence – significantly lowering fill rates.
The Human Resources and Professional Development offices collaborated to identify solutions, including scheduling professional development opportunities for low-absence times of year. This collaboration led to a 10% decrease in PD absences, and a 55% decrease on Mondays and Fridays.
They also communicated the need for longer lead times to their teachers. As a result, 96% of the absences for the first PD series were entered two weeks in advance, with a 99% fill rate across the district.
Through collaboration, benchmarking and data-driven insights, Atlanta continues to offer a high level of professional development without sacrificing educator time in the classroom.
"I am also pleased to report that our teachers really, really enjoyed the development that they received and the opportunity to collaborate with teachers on the same grade level in other schools," Skye said. "It was a win-win for everyone."
Want to learn more about Atlanta Public School's PD and absence strategy?
Greece Central School District at a Glance:
Student Population: 11,000+
Certified staff: 928
Classified staff: 1,221
Location: Greece, NY
Greece Central School District
Purposeful professional learning driven by data
"Our rule is to look at the data for professional learning and how we might use that to inform our work."
A recent report from the Frontline Research & Learning Institute found that only 8% of professional learning activities are aligned to a data-driven format. But that is not the case in Greece Central School District.
“Our rule is to look at the data for professional learning and how we might use that to inform our work," says Marguerite Dimgba, Director of Professional Learning.
At Greece Central, when proposing professional development activities, teachers must identify how those activities align to the district’s strategic action plan. Then, following each activity, they’re required to submit feedback.
“Anyone can count, ‘I had five people take this class for ten hours.’ That’s not very meaningful data," Marguerite says. "I wanted the whole picture. I wanted to look at the evaluation of the courses. I wanted to look at how that ties into teacher growth and professional learning.”
The work doesn’t stop once a teacher completes a learning activity. Greece Central actively works with teachers to ensure that professional development makes a difference in the classroom.
“I’m not evaluating you and your knowledge after having taken this course. I want to know, ‘Did this course have a change on your practice? Did it have any impact on student learning?"
Because they're using an integrated software solution for professional learning and evaluations, Greece Central can provide targeted learning recommendations based on evaluations results. Plus, they can track and give credit for a wide array of learning opportunities, from staff meetings and shadow days to job-embedded collaborative learning like mentoring, professional learning communities, collegial circles, curriculum writing and group events, as well as outside learning such as conferences and college courses.
Although these types of learning aren’t new to the district, Greece Central now has a way to ensure that such learning aligns with district goals.
"Professional learning must be very purposeful and tie back to our strategic plan.”
Deerfield Public Schools 109 at a Glance:
Student Population: 2,900+
Certified staff: 248
Classified staff: 165
Location: Deerfield, IL
Deerfield Public Schools 109
Data-driven recruiting to find the best talent
“We regard people as the single most important asset of our educational system.”
Deerfield Public Schools 109 has been around for more than 100 years — but that doesn't keep them from innovating how they recruit the best educators.
Dale Fisher, the Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources, sees a clear relationship between student success and placing qualified educators in the classroom. And he uses data to ensure that best educators are hired at Deerfield.
Every candidate applies through Frontline Recruiting & Hiring, a web-based applicant tracking and proactive recruiting solution. That means Dale can report on trends, explore actionable insights and formulate data-driven hiring strategies.
“The data allows us to examine where our applicants are coming from. It’s helped us identify opportunities to expand."
They've got it almost down to a science — and use that data to identify the best uses of recruiting time and money.
But they take it a step further. Because District 109 uses Frontline Professional Growth, Dale can ensure that new hires quickly take advantage of the district’s extensive mentoring and professional learning programs — without needing to re-enter employee information into multiple systems.
“We look at the data that’s entered into the system after we bring candidates on board. We’re able to track information in a seamless manner, look at the information we logged during the interview process and use it to help our teachers establish goals when they begin in the district.”
Using a connected platform for employee management unlocks key insights that drive District 109's holistic strategy for recruiting, engaging, growing and retaining employees.
"We have a wealth of information that covers close to a decade now or more. All that information is at our fingertips… Now we can access that data and use it for informational purposes to guide how we educate our kids.”
Want to learn more about Deerfield's recruiting strategy?
Alvin Independent School District :
Student population: 22,000+
Certified staff: 1,272
Classified staff: 1,244
Location: Alvin, TX
Alvin Independent School District
Increased efficiency returns time to teaching
Teachers and support staff have more time to spend on students.
Teachers are constantly challenged to do more with less. This is especially true in special education, with growing teacher/student ratios and limited resources. 74% of districts reporting a shortage say they specifically need more special ed teachers. Compound that with a 12% special ed teacher turnover rate – nearly twice that of general ed teachers – and you get a systemic challenge attracting, hiring, engaging and retaining special educators.
But if we can give them the tools to be more efficient, teachers are not only more effective, but morale improves as well.
That's just what Alvin ISD did. Alvin is a rapidly growing district with enrollment increasing by well over 1,000 students annually. Paper-based systems for ELL, 504 and RTI programs were burdensome on administrators and teachers alike.
Alvin found a solution in Frontline Special Ed & Interventions, an electronic, paperless system. Using Frontline saves time for busy teachers. Since working with hard-copies has been virtually eliminated, they no longer need to pull folders out of a file cabinet to work on student records or put them back to secure them.
Case managers can quickly input data or check students’ records to make sure that all their teachers have viewed the relevant documents and send reminders when needed.
Student accommodations, goals and behavior intervention plans are uploaded to the district’s student information system, allowing the general education teachers easy access to information that will help them support their students. Teachers not only know they have a student with special needs, but also have all the relevant details and history about that student.
The group that truly benefits the most is the students themselves. Because staff have immediate access to accommodations, behavior plans, assessments and evaluations, they can provide direct support. If a student is struggling, it just takes a moment for a teacher to review their records and find out what instructional strategies would be most effective.
With increased efficiency and no hardcopy paperwork, teachers and support staff have more time to spend on students. As they realize how much using the online program helps them do their jobs, staff morale continues to improve.
Want to learn more about Alvin ISD's strategy to support special educators?
Get a closer look at the special education teacher shortage:
Lexington at a Glance:
Student population: 8,800+
Certified staff: 700
Classified staff: 450
Location: W. Columbia, SC
Lexington School District 2
Actionable data impacts educators and students
"By making it easier for teachers, they can focus on their students learning and growing."
Lexington School District 2 focuses on using data to improve instruction. It shows in the launch of "MODEL" - a unique storage solution for organizing documents that allows district leaders to monitor the evaluation and growth of all teachers and principals.
Chief Human Resource Officer Angela Cooper explains: “We linked evaluation and growth of all of our teachers and principals to on-time graduation rates, which comes from getting aggregated data from instruction and then applying it to those particular teachers and the actual data in their classrooms.”
Using actionable data that connected instruction to graduation rates was a tremendous advantage. The district saw an increase in their graduation rate from 75.5% to 87.4% in four years, exceeding the 2017 state average of 84.6%.
The district also adopted the state’s new rubric, a significant shift. Because they're using Frontline Professional Growth for both professional learning and evaluations, they could break the new state forms into smaller pieces so that teachers can focus on their students.
"By making it easier for teachers to do, they can focus on their students learning and growing, and not going through a hoop to complete a form," said Kevin Smoak, Coordinator for Evaluation and Effectiveness.
In the past, monitoring teacher growth for 50 first-year teachers took hours. Now, a single report shows all of that data immediately.
"It’s not a ‘gotcha’ moment," Kevin says. "It’s about how can you learn from this and grow.”
Using a virtual learning platform, Kevin guides discussions about professional learning with teachers and their mentors across the district. Meeting virtually, they talk in small groups about the new rubric, areas of strength and ways to improve instruction.
Kevin plans to work with the Instruction department to expand the program to all teachers, providing actionable data district-wide.
Want to learn more about Lexington's approach to evaluations?