The Comprehensive Faculty Development Model
The dictionary defines “talent” as “a special ability or aptitude; a capacity for achievement or success;” and, in the collective, as “a group of persons with special ability.” Linking this definition with the JFK quote that opens this chapter expresses well the goal of this book. In these pages, we aim to help private-independent schools—through use of tools and frameworks—to engage with teachers in a way that enables them to develop and use their talents along lines of excellence for the benefit of their students, colleagues, the school community at large, and themselves.
To develop these tools and frameworks, ISM engaged in an intensive study of the needs of 21st Century Schools and school leaders, of which this book is one outcome. This examination was comprised of:
- reflecting on changes we have observed while working with hundreds of schools of all sizes, missions, pedagogies, and philosophies during the past decade;
- reviewing the writing and observations of leading educators and management experts; and
- examining societal, generational, technological, and legal changes impacting teachers, students, parents, community members, and schools.
Based on these reflections, we have come to a number of conclusions regarding what is required for schools to thrive in the hyper-competitive 21st century environment. With respect to faculty and administrators, we believe that schools need to:
- view the primary task of academic administrators to be that of increasing the capacity of their teachers (i.e., helping teachers grow);
- measure teacher effectiveness on a regular and ongoing basis;
- establish deeply engaging individual growth and renewal plans that take both a short-term and long-term approach to investing in each teacher’s strengths; and
- hold teachers and administrators accountable for their performance.
Holding faculty accountable has three related aspects.
- Recognizing, supporting, and rewarding mission-appropriate faculty who are working to a standard of excellence;
- Providing active support for struggling faculty members to reattain and exceed performance standards, such as through coaching and mentoring, and where necessary, formal corrective action; and
- Identifying and making the hard decisions to terminate the toxic, mediocre, incompetent, and/or mission-inappropriate faculty members (i.e., those who still aren’t succeeding even with the school’s structured support, either due to skill deficits or misalignment with the school’s mission, culture, and values).
We believe that for these aims to be achieved consistently, schools must institute systematic approaches to managing teacher performance, from hiring through retirement. The system we recommend—based on the premise that what is not guided purposefully improves only at random—is the basis for this book.
From the Teacher’s Point of View: Experiencing the ‘Life Cycle of Events’
Before delving into the details of the systematic approach proposed, first consider the faculty-school relationship from the individual teacher’s perspective. Interactions in a teacher’s employment experience with the school include responding to a job ad, interviewing, negotiating a salary and benefits package, receiving a performance review, being permitted (or required) to pursue professional development opportunities, and the like. Teachers experience only certain of these activities—such as hiring and termination—once during their tenure with the school, while others—such as performance evaluations and professional development—will likely be experienced on an annual basis.
The following diagram puts these activities into pictorial form, placing the events in roughly sequential order throughout the teacher’s career.
Mission, Culture, and Values at the Center
You will notice that the words “mission,” “culture,” and “values” are at the center of the diagram—surrounded by a series of two-way arrows. This is meant to suggest two things.
- Ideally, candidates and employees sense that mission is the foundation of all interactions with them—i.e., all processes align with and support the school’s mission.
- These interactions both reflect and impact the school’s culture and values—e.g., the hiring of a new teacher reflects the school’s values in the selection while also impacting these same values through the new teacher’s interactions in the daily life of the school.
Using a Comprehensive Approach to Developing and Sustaining an Exemplary Faculty
When not purposefully designed, the events shown above may feel disparate and disconnected from one another—i.e., things that need to be done for paperwork or compliance purposes, but which don’t seemingly connect to or support the school’s mission, culture, and values in any way. Such a state of affairs is exactly the opposite of what the school is trying to achieve.
For purposes of effectiveness, the school will want to ensure that all employment-related activities are coming from a common base or starting point (i.e., the school’s mission). For efficiency purposes, the school will further wish to design its processes in such a way as to be replicable and repeatable—whether from division to division, or year to year—so that it can ensure that effective practices are being used consistently and continually.
To these ends, ISM’s Comprehensive Faculty Development Model is comprised of distinct, as well as overlapping, processes that are connected by a common thread and which individually and collectively aim to support and reflect the school’s mission, culture, and values.
- Hiring and Induction
The school begins with a definition of the skills, characteristics, and experience required for the position. With that in place, it can then initiate advertising, interviewing, checking references, and selection. This process extends into effective induction, which actually begins by articulating the school’s expectations of faculty during the hiring process. Induction continues post-hire as an 18- to 24-month process of orienting new faculty to the school’s mission, culture, and values and supporting them as they acclimate to the responsibilities of faculty at your school.
- Evaluation and Growth Cycle
Starting from describing the school’s expectations of faculty during hiring and reiterating them during induction, this process incorporates setting expectations, observing performance, giving feedback, formally evaluating performance, and guiding growth and renewal—all tied together by ongoing coaching and mentoring.
- Reward and Recognition Process
For schools not using merit pay, this process uses evaluation as a way to recognize and appreciate excellence, provide opportunities for leadership within the faculty culture, and enable administrators to publicly and privately acknowledge a job well-done. For schools utilizing merit pay, in addition to the above, this process uses evaluation as a key element in setting individual teacher compensation.
- Corrective Action and Selective Retention
Whereas the school’s evaluation and growth cycle helps the school identify highly qualified, mission-appropriate faculty that it seeks to retain, the corrective-action process aims to support struggling faculty in regaining satisfactory performance. “Selective retention” denotes a process to help the school make hard decisions about mission-inappropriate teachers that it must dismiss or whose contracts it will not renew.
From the school’s perspective, this systematic approach is represented pictorially by the following diagram.
The Common Thread
As we will express in more detail in Chapter 2 and all following chapters, well-defined Characteristics of Professional Excellence (CPEs) serve as the thread tying together each process into an integrated whole. In formal language, we describe these characteristics as “the specific behaviors, values, and attitudes that must be present in strength within your faculty in order for the school’s mission to be delivered with excellence to your students.” More colloquially, we can describe characteristics as “the how” of faculty life in the school—that is, how faculty interact with students, parents, and colleagues to bring your mission to life, and ultimately to fulfillment.
As an example of characteristics serving as a thread, your list of characteristics can form the basis of the school’s interview questions and thus help determine which candidates to hire. The same characteristics are reinforced during induction and serve as the basis for the school’s evaluation of faculty. Coming full circle, the presence or absence of these characteristics influences merit pay and serves as a key factor in decisions to retain the faculty member, or not.
Implementing This Model
In Chapters 3–8, we walk through each of the elements of the Comprehensive Faculty Development Model in detail for the purpose of helping private school leaders implement this system in their schools in a way that supports, reflects, and sustains the mission, culture, and values of their school. Implementing this model doesn’t necessarily require the school to do more than it is doing already—i.e., all schools ordinarily hire faculty, orient them, compensate them, and make decisions as to who will be retained (offered new contracts) each year. What it does require is that the school think differently, conceiving of these activities as an interrelated series of events and proactively managing these events on that basis. By doing so, the school will be taking significant steps toward ensuring its ability to deliver its mission with excellence to current and future generations of students.