If teacher effectiveness is the most important lever in education, then school districts should be what authors Bill Conaty and Ram Charan call ‘talent masters.’   But in most states, we’re still arguing about whether and how performance data will be incorporated into evaluations.  In contrast, Conaty and Charan discuss the constant, candid and detailed efforts to evaluate and boost personal performance.

In Talent Masters: Why Smart Leaders Put People Before Numbers describe how leading organizations spot, find, and develop people.  Conaty and Charan list 7 principles of the talent masters:

1) An enlightened leadership team, starting with the CEO, that recognizes that building and deploying talent is the top priority

2) Meritocracy through differentiation: dig into causes of underlying performance

3) Working values that govern how people work and behave

4) A culture of trust and candor where people can talk candidly

5) Rigorous talent assessment—as rigorous as operations, finance and strategy

6) A business partnership with human resources

7) Continuous learning and improvement


Conaty, a 40-year HR leader at General Electric, gives the book at heavy GE and big company emphasis.  The idea of a meritocracy is alien to school districts where lock-step pay systems are common but there is still a lot that districts can learn from the systematic discipline described in Talent Masters.

The closest I’ve seen in education is the system at Summit Prep described in this blog last month.   Summit has four levels of teachers based on demonstrated competence.  Starting salaries are differentiated by specialty.

OpenEd will be supporting a talent development initiative starting next week.  The goal is to identify and share best practices in K-12 teacher development, particularly STEM.  Let me know if you have best practices to share.



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Tom Vander Ark is author of Difference Making at the Heart of Learning, The Power of Place, Better Together, Smart Parents, Smart Cities and Getting Smart. He is co-founder of Getting Smart and serves on the boards of Education Board Partners, 4.0 Schools, Digital Learning Institute, Latinx Education Collaborative, Mastery Transcript Consortium and eduInnovation. Follow Tom on Twitter, @tvanderark.


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