The future of teaching in America: Teachers as Human Capital

The Future of Teaching in America: Teachers as Human Capital

By Susan Ohanian The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation quietly announced on January 31, 2008, that it would no longer support 'small schools' initiatives in Chicago. Gates representative Steve Seleznick (above second from right) spoke at a press conference at Chicago's Sherman Elementary School, announcing that Gates would begin supporting a program called 'turnaround' for Chicago. Left to right (above), Donald Feinstein (Academy for Urban School Leadership, which trains teachers in 'turnaround' methods), then Chicago Schools Chief Executive Officer Arne Duncan, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, Chicago alderman Joann Thompson, Steve Seleznick (Gates Foundation), and then Chicago Board of Education President Rufus Williams. Substance caption and photo by George N. Schmidt.

Google "SMHC" and you learn that it stands for Southern Mountain Horse Company, breeders of miniature Shetland ponies, miniature donkeys and miniature goldendoodles. But that's not what we're about here. SMHC also stands for Strategic Management of Human Capital, donkeys of a different stripe. The good news is that only 300-odd people have accessed What is SMHC? since it was put up on the Strategic Management of Human Capital website in July. But since ignorance is not bliss when it comes to the corporate assault on teachers, this is also the bad news.

It means that teachers are not aware of the very real threat to their continued employment. Written by SMHC co-directors Jim Kelly and Allan Odden, What is SMHC? puts forth the main tenets of the strategic management of human capital and how it relates to education. This analysis was supported by grants from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE) and the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison. SMHC is a project of the Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE).

Conveniently, Allan Odden is Director of CPRE and Co-Director of SMHC. Here are a few key points from the 40-page document about SMHC. Note: these are direct quotes--making it very clear where the models of excellence are that will drive education policy. Although SMHC focuses on the 100 public school districts with the largest enrollments, no public school teacher in the US will be able to escape the thrust of the plan. As teachers should already have learned, living far away from Chicago doesn't keep you safe. The strategic management of human capital in public education concerns the acquisition, development, performance management and retention of top talent in the nation’s schools, particularly large, urban school districts. The Strategic Management of Human Capital (SMHC) is also the name of a new action project of the Consortium for Policy Research n Education (CPRE), headquartered at the CPRE offices at the University of Wisconsin Madison

One of SMHC's primary objectives is to identify how the highest quality human capital- talent--can be recruited and retained as teachers, principals, and human capital management leaders in the nation's large, urban, school districts.

Initial ideas for accomplishing this task will be drawn from case studies of jurisdictions already moving forward on this agenda, such as Boston, Chicago, Fairfax County, Long Beach, Minnesota and New York City; from organizations working to recruit, place and develop top talent, such as Teach for America, the New Teacher Project, and New Leaders for New Schools; and also from best practices in the private and non-profit sectors.

SMHC addresses how all aspects of the human resource management system (typically called personnel administration in most school districts) can be aligned, including recruitment, screening, selection, placement, induction, professional development (focused on curriculum and classroom practice), evaluation, compensation and promotion into instructional leadership. The goal is to redesign the entire human capital systems so that top talent is acquired, strategically placed and equitably distributed in key roles in schools and districts, developed and retained over time, all driven by metrics on teacher and leadership performance and effectiveness.

The single integrated goal has two outcomes by which progress can be measured: student performance and teaching performance, the latter indicated by measures of instructional practice and effectiveness. . . . Though conceptually straight forward, these actions will require deep seated changes in the ways most districts have operated; the changes likely will generate controversy and will require strong educational leadership, aggressive performance management and broader political support to move successfully forward.

[T]he current system does not recruit, train, hire, induct, deploy, develop, retain or manage the top talent, i.e., the human capital, needed to accomplish these goals.

The overall management challenge portion of the strategic management of human capital, then, is to use the data from the measurement of both teaching performance and student performance to guide management decisions over time, including talent recruitment, selection and placement, and also to support and reward the individuals who acquire and deploy in classrooms the kinds of instructional practices that boost student learning. Though conceptually straight forward, these actions will require deep seated changes in the ways most districts have operated; the changes likely will generate controversy and will require strong educational leadership, aggressive performance management and broader political support to move successfully forward.

Districts like Chicago began actively recruiting teachers from the best colleges and universities. . . . Second, talented college graduates committed to education reforms and created organizations such as Teach For America, The New Teacher Project, and New Leaders for New Schools, organizations that began to recruit individuals educated in the country’s top universities and train them for teaching and leadership positions in the nation’s urban districts. [T]he Broad Foundation began training superintendents in performance management skills for large urban districts and partnered with the Dell Foundation to embed performance management more deeply in management systems in large districts. Broad also has trained a new group of HR managers for urban districts, drawing from talented graduates of MBA and public policy programs.

A key element of most educational improvement strategies is an explicit instructional vision, i.e., a finely articulated understanding of effective instructional practice. This vision is arguably at the center of the core of the activities that comprise the educational improvement strategy.

To make it part of a strategic human capital management system, teacher evaluation would first need to be explicitly linked to an instructional vision and would then need to provide a valid and reliable measure of an individual teacher’s performance to that instructional vision.

The over-riding question is how to move districts into a radical reform posture. . . .The federal NCLB program has created accountability pressures and most progressive urban district leaders want that pressure to remain, while fixing the recognized flaws in NCLB’s accountability metrics.

When someone holds up the Chicago Public Schools as a beacon of human resources management, you have to ask who's passing around the Kool-Aid. Read one more SMHC declaration a couple of times--but not right before you go to bed: Effective instruction is not left to individual preference; it is not voluntary. It is systemic to the organization (i.e., school, groups of schools, district or state) and a central part of the overall improvement strategy, particularly in the SMHC context. And so on. It's a corporate plan to destroy teacher professionalism and turn teachers into script-following drones. With an emphasis on obedience.

Here's a summary statement from SMHC. We will: 1) define strategic management of human capital in public education; 2) create a network of leaders actively reengineering human capital management systems in public education, 3) document the nature and impact of leading-edge human capital management systems in several districts and states, 4) establish Strategic Management of Human Capital (SMHC) as a prominent issue on the nation’s education reform agenda, and 5) advance local and state policies to support widespread adoption of SMHC in public education. Our goals are to improve the quality of classroom instruction and student outcomes in K-12 classrooms by radically improving the strategic management of teaching and instructional leadership talent-- human capital--in large, public school districts. To accomplish these goals, we are conducting case studies to document the impact of SMHC reforms in six places: 1) New York City; 2) Chicago; 3) Boston; 4) Long Beach, CA; 5) Fairfax County, VA; and 6) the state of Minnesota’s "Q-Comp" program. Additional case studies are being conducted of Teach for America, the New Teacher Project, and New Leaders for New Schools.

That doesn't mean teachers in other districts should feel safe. See below for what has just happened to New Haven, Connecticut teachers. Who are these people? Strategic Management for Human Capital is a Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE) Project. The director of CPRE is Allan Odden. He was assistant executive director at the Education Commission of the States for a decade. He is also principal investigator for the CPRE Teacher Compensation project. He has consulted for governors, state legislators, chief state school officers, national and local union, The National Alliance for Business, the Business Roundtable, New American Schools, the U.S. Congress, the Secretary of Education, and many local school districts. Odden and James Kelley head SMHC. Kelly is the founding president and chief executive officer of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS), where he helped to create National Board Certification (NBC).

The SMHC Task Force is chaired by Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, Pawlenty & James B. Hunt Jr., a Task Force member, published an Education Week Commentary, "For Better Teachers, Build Better Personnel Practices," Feb. 11, 2009, in which they proclaim, "Boston; Chicago; Fairfax County, Va.; Long Beach, Calif.; and New York City--are instituting practices that are proving to be effective for addressing the problem. These districts demonstrate the ability of urban schools to respond to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s clear interest in recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining top teacher and principal talent."

They outline the SMHC position and conclude with: The bottom-line message is clear: If we want to attract and retain the best possible teachers for 21st-century students and schools, we need to use 21st-century human-resources practices. Make it easy for highly qualified applicants to secure teaching and principal positions. Give them opportunities and incentives to strengthen their abilities throughout their careers. Provide the leadership that continues to inspire over time. And establish clear standards to provide every educator a road map for success.

Here are the presenters at SMHC's November 2008 Invitational Conference. "Invitational" means they invited teams of education leaders from the largest 100 and most urban school districts in the country. Tim Pawlenty, Governor of Minnesota; Chair, SMHC Task Force; Chair, Education Commission of the State; immediate past Chair, National Governors Association. Sir Michael Barber, Vice Chair, SMHC Task Force and Partner, McKinsey & Company; Former Chief Advisor on Education Delivery to British Prime Minister Tony Blair Carl Cohn, Vice Chair, SMHC Task Force and Distinguished Leader in Residence, College of Education, San Diego State University; Former Superintendent, San Diego Unified Schools and Long Beach Public Schools. [As superintendent of Long Beach Public Schools, winner of the Broad Foundation Prize in Urban Education and the McGraw Hill Award. There, he regimented curriculum, ended social promotion, and more. In 2002 the Broad Foundation gave Long Beach several hundred thousands of dollars to support the Baldrige Continual Improvement Process. Cohn has worked as a faculty advisor for both the Broad Superintendents Academy and the Harvard Urban Superintendents Program. He is a Broad "executive advisor" to school districts and on the board of Western Governors University and EdSource.] Michelle Rhee, Vice Chair, SMHC Task Force; Chancellor, District of Columbia Public Schools Sharon Robinson, SMHC Task Force member; President and Chief Executive Officer, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education [former vice president at Educational Testing Service]

Take a look at the Other Members of the SMHC Task Force: * Joseph A. Aguerrebere, Jr., President and CEO, National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Formerly, Deputy Director of the Education, Sexuality and Religion (ESR) Unit at the Ford Foundation in New York. * Michael Casserly, Executive Director, Council of the Great City Schools, the outfit that gave Rod Paige its Richard R. Green Award as the outstanding urban educator of 1999. The Council supports uniform national academic standards. * Yvonne Chan, Principal, Vaughn Next Century Learning Center; Member, California State Board of Education. Her charter school was named a 1995 California Distinguished School and a 1996 National Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education. * Antonia Cortese, Secretary/Treasurer, American Federation of Teachers. She oversees the development of the organization’s education policies and chairs the AFT Task Force on NCLB. She has served as executive vice president and vice president of the AFT, and an officer of the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) and she serves on National Assessment Governing Board (NAEP). * Jack D. Dale, Superintendent, Fairfax County Public Schools, Virginia; Former Superintendent, Frederick County Public Schools, Maryland * Timothy Daly, President, The New Teacher Project. He began his career in education as a Teach For America corps member. * Dan Domenech, Executive Director, American Association of School Administrators. He joined McGraw-Hill as senior vice president and head of the Urban Advisory resource in 2005. He has served on the U.S. Department of Education National Assessment Governing Board (NAEP). * Denis Doyle, Co-Founder, Vice Chairman and Chief Academic Officer, Schoolnet, Author, The Doyle Report. Formerly, Senior Research Fellow at the Hudson Institute, served as Director of Education Policy Studies and Human Capital Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. Co-author, with Lou Gerstner, among others, of Reinventing Education. *Susan Furhman, Chair, CPRE; President, Teachers College, Columbia University, and Chair, Consortium for Policy Research in Education. She serves on the Board of Trustees of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching * Beverly Hall, Superintendent, Atlanta Public Schools. Named National Urban School Superintendent of the Year by the Great City Schools. Serves on the board of the U.S. Department of Education Urban Education Research Task Force. * James B. Hunt, Jr., Former Governor, North Carolina, and Partner, Womble, Carlyle, Sandridge and Rice, PLLC. In 1985 he co-chaired the Carnegie Forum on Education and the Economy, leading to the formation of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. Serves as the chairman of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, and is a member of the Board of Trustees of Carnegie Corporation of New York. * Carol R. Johnson, Superintendent, Boston Public Schools; Former Superintendent, Memphis City Schools and Minneapolis Public Schools. She serves as secretary-treasurer of the Board of Directors for the Council of the Great City Schools, on the Spencer Foundation Board, the Harvard University Urban Superintendents’ Advisory Board, and the College Board. * Thomas J. Kane, Professor of Education and Economics, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Harvard University. Served as the senior economist for labor, education and welfare policy issues within President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers. * Joel I. Klein, Chancellor, New York City Department of Education * Janet M. Knupp, Founding President, Chicago Public Education Fund. She is a venture philanthropist with nearly 20 years of experience in start-up and turnaround nonprofit management. The Fund’s balanced portfolio of programs has developed more than 2,300 school leaders that benefit nearly 90 percent of Chicago public schools. In her previous work, she led several education organizations in start-up or turnaround situations, significantly growing revenues and positioning them for greater impact. [direct quote from SMHC website.] * Matthew Kramer, President and Chief Program Officer, Teach For America. Prior to joining Teach For America, he worked at McKinsey & Company, a management consulting firm, where he was a partner and leader in the North American Financial Institutions practice. * Edward E. Lawler, III, Director, Center for Effective Organizations and Distinguished Professor of Business, University of Southern California.As the author of over 350 articles and 38 books, he has been recognized by Fortune and other publications as one of the country’s leading management research experts. * Francine Lawrence, President, Toledo Federation of Teachers. Under her leadership, the Toledo Federation of Teachers has developed several innovative union-management initiatives including the district’s nationally recognized Peer Assessment and Review program, and its Teacher Review and Alternative Compensation System. * Kimberly Oliver Burnim, Kindergarten Teacher, Broad Acres Elementary School, Montgomery County Public Schools, National Board Certified Teacher, 2006 National Teacher of the Year * Josh Reibel, President and Chief Operating Officer, Wireless Generation. From the Wireless website: Wireless Generation has broken new ground with technology that analyzes student data and provides curriculum customized to individual learning needs. Wireless Generation also builds large-scale data systems, such as New York City’s ARIS, that centralize student data and give educators and parents unprecedented visibility into learning. . . .Wireless Generation currently serves more than 200,000 educators and 3 million students. * Sharon P. Robinson, President and Chief Executive Officer, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. Previously, she was president of the Educational Testing Service’s Educational Policy Leadership Institute, also served as ETS' senior vice president and chief operating officer, and as vice president for teaching and learning and for state and federal relations; was assistant secretary of education with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Educational Research and Improvement; and held a variety of leadership positions at the National Education Association, including director of the National Center for Innovation. * Eric Smith, Commissioner of Education, Florida; former superintendent of Ann Arundel County (MD) and Charlotte Mecklenburg (NC). He previously served as Senior Vice President for College Readiness at the College Board. * LaVerne E. Srinivasan, President, New Leaders for New Schools; Former Deputy Chancellor of Operations of the New York City Public Schools. * Gerald N. Tirozzi, Executive Director, National Association of Secondary School Principals. Previously, he served as Assistant Secretary of Elementary and Secondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education, and was Connecticut's Commissioner of Education for eight years. He serves on numerous advisory boards including Pearson Education National Policy Board, the Educational Research Service, the League, the Learning First Alliance, the USA Today Advisory Board, and the U.S. Department of State’s Overseas Schools Advisory Council. * Dennis Van Roekel, President, National Education Association. * Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers. * Gene Wilhoit, Executive Director, Council of Chief State School Officers. Funders From the SMHC website: SMHC's two initial funders also are supporting other projects focused on human capital management in education with which we are collaborating. Carnegie Corporation of New York has funded Teach for America, The New Teacher Project, New Leaders for New Schools, all three of which are represented on the SMHC Task Force, and the Bay Area Coalition for Equitable Schools. The Bill and Melinda Gates has funded the Urban Institute, the Aspen Institute and the Center for American Progress. The Aspen Institute coordinates their efforts with complementary projects on rethinking human capital, including those carried out by CALDER and the Center for American Progress. The Center for American Progress brings us full circle to Senator Barack Obama and his first speech on education.

On Aug. 4, 2009, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sat down with SMHC Task Force members at the Ritz Carlton in Washington D. C. Eleanor Clift of Newsweek gushed over this meeting. A Warning to Teachers Go to page 28 in the What Is SMHC? document cited above and you will see that the SMHC people acknowledge that: In collective bargaining states, changes in teacher evaluation, compensation and performance management cannot be made outside of the collective bargaining process. In other words, changes in human capital management programs would need to be developed in collaboration with the teacher union and reflected in a revised contract. The nature of school district/teacher union relationships obviously impacts how smoothly such changes can be developed. In some cases the district and= union work together to make changes; in other contexts, the situation is more contentious. Yes! Teachers working in bargaining units have a contract that protects them--until the union moves in--such as in New Haven--and sells them out. Take a look at the recent contract settlement in New Haven, and know that it is the future of teaching in America--unless and until teachers stand up and shout, "Hell, No!" instead of crawling on bended knee to whisper, "Yes,sir!" "The spirit of collaboration has been extraordinary. Teachers are being included as an equal partner at the table to help make this a success." --David Cicarella, president of New Haven Federated Teachers Ah, yes, that critical union demand: a seat at the table. Where have we heard this before? What Cicarella doesn't mention is that in August 2009, the New Haven mayor was jetting off to D. C. for a conversation with Arne Duncan, while he (Cicarella) was back in New Haven guarding his seat at the table. That wasn't Mayor John DeStefano's first trip to D. C.

Back in March 2009, DeStefano "convened with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and members of Congress for the Mayors' National Forum on Education at the Capital Hilton Hotel in Washington, D.C." Along with New Haven's school superintendent, DeStefano led a panel, "Mayors and Superintendents: Building a Successful Partnership," in DeStefano's words, "alongside Washington D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty and Chancellor of Schools Michelle Rhee." This forum was funded by--who else?--the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Probably that's why union presidents didn't get a seat at that table.

According to their calendar, SMHC is holding its Second SMHC National Conference on November 3--but "The guest list has been hidden at organizer's request." If you doubt that the AFT is co-opting teachers to a corporate model, take a look at the AFT Incentive Grants just awarded. These projects show teacher unions' willingness to toe the line. It doesn't matter what the question is: Money is the answer. Nobody seems to care what the question is. — Susan Ohanian


Final edited version of this article posted at October 21, 2009, 6:00 a.m. CDT. If you choose to reproduce this article in whole or in part, or any of the graphical material included with it, please give full credit to SubstanceNews as follows: Copyright © 2009 Substance, Inc., Please provide Substance with a copy of any reproductions of this material and we will let you know our terms — or you can take out a subscription to Substance (see red button to the right) and make a donation. We are asking all of our readers to either subscribe to the print edition of Substance (a bargain at $16 per year) or make a donation. Both options are available on the right side of our Home Page. For further information, feel free to call us at our office at 773-725-7502.


October 20, 2009 at 5:28 PM

By: Sick and Tired

This is Serious Stuff

1.Corporate managers have no place in schools.

2.Educators involved in this charade are going along to get along.

3.The goal is union busting.

4.New Teacher Training Institutes are merely interested in removing money from city coffers.

5.Hiring inexperienced teachers will simply result in inexperienced teachers in the classroom, but with a cheaper salary.

6.As soon as the inexperienced teachers become experienced (some arbitrary small number of years), they will find they have no job security.

7.Scripted, data driven, mandatory instruction is taking the joy out of teaching for the teachers and taking the joy out of learning for the students.

8.Teachers in data driven hellholes spend all of their time preparing reports for robotic principals. There is no time to engage the students in the remediation or enrichment they need.

9.All teachers, whether under attack yet or not, have to stand up and demand the union leadership starts fighting for instructional freedom.

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