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Attracting and Retaining Public School Teachers: Challenges for Today’s HR Manager

By Joseph G. Jarret

When pondering public budgeting from the public administrator’s perspective, it is interesting to note that education of our nation’s children is an expensive, people-intensive process that provides unique challenges for today’s HR professional. According to the American Association of School Administrators’ publication, School Budgeting 101, the majority of the monies budgeted and expended by school districts are devoted to salaries and benefits. Consequently, schools and school districts spend a significant amount of taxpayer dollars to attract and retain the best and the brightest employees.

According to Allan Odden in his 2011 Phi Delta Kappan Magazine piece, “Manage ‘Human Capital’ Strategically,” this means school boards intent on implementing significant reductions to their budgets must expect some fallout in terms of a reduction in force of employees and compensation packages. Such fiscal challenges, he suggests, has transformed what has been known as human resource management to the strategic management of human capital. The concept, as Odden explains, is about “restructuring the entire human resource system. That means that recruitment, selection, distribution, induction, professional development, performance management and evaluation, compensation, and career progression are all restructured to boost teacher and principal effectiveness in ways that dramatically improve instructional practice and student learning.”

Hiring & Retaining Teachers

jarret 1Although all employees serving a school system play important roles in viability of the entity, parents and community leaders often view teachers as an entity’s most important human resource. Susanna Loeb, Demetra Kalogrides and Tara Béteille, in their 2011 white paper titled “Effective Schools: Teacher Hiring, Assignment, Development, and Retention,” observed that “school leaders can control the quality of the teaching force at their school by hiring high-quality teachers; by strategically retaining good teachers and removing poor teachers; and by developing the teachers already at their school. Moreover, they can maximize the effectiveness of their available teachers by assigning them to classes for which they are best suited and through which provides the most benefit to their school.”

Strategically Managing Human Capital

In a 2007 Consortium for Policy Research in Education article titled “Assessing Human Resource Alignment: The Foundation for Building Total Teacher Quality Improvement,” authors Herbert G. Heneman, III and Anthony T. Milanowski suggest that the strategic management of human capital include the following core ideas:

1. The strategic needs for acquiring, developing and retaining talent should flow from the education system’s improvement strategy, which usually includes an explicit vision of effective instructional practice and identifies the key people needed to implement the improvement strategy.

2. The strategic management of human capital begins with aggressive and comprehensive strategies to recruit — from whatever talent channel — top teaching and leadership talent into schools and districts. This is especially true for poor, urban and rural districts because their challenges are the toughest in the country and deserve the best talent to address them successfully.

3. Teacher talent needs to be professionally managed to produce in classrooms and schools the content-rich, effective instructional practices that boost student learning to high levels.

4. To produce these effective instructional practices, improve them over time and achieve the desired gains in student learning, the system needs to horizontally align all the key pieces of the HR system — recruitment, selection, staffing, induction/mentoring, professional development, performance management/evaluation and compensation — to multiple measures of teaching effectiveness. For other key staff, the HR pieces and related measures of effectiveness need to be designed around the knowledge, skills and expertise that teacher leaders, principals and other key district leaders need to successfully execute their roles in the improvement strategy.

5. In the process of designing and implementing both the improvement strategy and the human capital management program, the education system should produce a professional school culture that is characterized by high expectations for student achievement, a common vision of effective instruction and accountability for student performance results. 


The savvy HR manager knows that, despite tough economic times, the best and brightest employees will continue to seek greener pastures if they are not valued, encouraged and subject to inspired leadership. I believe Heneman & Milanowski sum it up best:

“If all of the elements of strategic human capital management work as intended, the district and each school should have sufficient quantities and quality of talent, and instructional practice should continuously improve, students should be able to achieve to ever higher levels of academic achievement, and districts should be able to significantly reduce the large achievement gaps linked to poverty and race that exist across America’s schools.”


Joseph G. Jarret is a public sector manager, attorney and mediator who lectures on behalf of the master of public policy and administration program in the department of political science at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He is the 2013 president of the East Tennessee Chapter of ASPA.

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2 Responses to Attracting and Retaining Public School Teachers: Challenges for Today’s HR Manager

  1. Satchel Pulse Reply

    February 20, 2020 at 6:13 am

    Give staff a platform to easily share their voice, find out more here: https://www.satchelpulse.com/us/solutions/role/hr-leader.html

  2. Sara Reply

    February 19, 2014 at 12:22 am

    Hi Joseph,
    Nice post! Fantastic details here. Happy employees contribute a lot to their company, similarly employees are the asset to any organization, it is equally important to find resourceful employees who are highly productive and are team workers.

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