No_silver_bullets_400_Standard

No silver bullets: Ten strategies for teacher talent management

By Paul Kihn and Andy Moffit

The quality of teachers is one of the main factors that determine student success. School districts pursuing better outcomes should consider a ten-part approach to managing talent.

School systems in the United States have been working diligently to improve teacher effectiveness in recent years, and we believe what we’ve seen can provide useful lessons for other geographies as well. One of our main takeaways has been that most school systems tend to focus disproportionate resources on the latest silver bullet, rather than the end-to-end talent management practices currently used by other talent-driven industries, including medicine, law, accounting, and financial services.

This article reviews the work of some school systems in the United States—such as those in New York City, Denver, and Pittsburgh—that have begun implementing ten integrated strategic activities we see as key to a distinctive approach to teacher talent management. Those activities are:

  1. Know, and build active partnerships with, sources of talent.

  2. Create and market a value proposition that attracts quality teachers.

  3. Use a data-driven selection process.

  4. Match teacher placement with system needs.

  5. Provide quality student data and instructional support.

  6. Tailor professional-development opportunities.

  7. Differentiate career paths and opportunities.

  8. Identify and codify core competencies.

  9. Institutionalize quality evaluation processes and feedback.

  10. Provide aligned performance incentives.

None of these activities is particularly radical, and many school systems may already be doing one or more of them well. But school systems that can raise the bar throughout the entire integrated process should see substantial improvements in teacher effectiveness and the corresponding student outcomes. As a practical matter, school systems will see less progress if a large contingent of an overwhelmingly tenured teacher population resists improvement efforts; there are limits to available performance-management measures for tenured teachers. Positive change therefore requires that these efforts at talent management be a holistic approach that emphasizes professional expectations and personal growth for all teachers and incorporates the use of positive incentives.

Download the full report on which this article is based, No silver bullets (PDF–405KB).

About the author(s)

Paul Kihn is a partner in McKinsey’s Washington, DC, office, and Andy Moffit is a senior expert in the Boston office.
More on Social Sector
Article - McKinsey Quarterly

Organizational health: A fast track to performance improvement

Article - McKinsey Quarterly

Culture for a digital age

Commentary - McKinsey Quarterly

Putting lifelong learning on the CEO agenda

Commentary - McKinsey Quarterly

Getting ready for the future of work