Laboratories of Reform? Human Resource Management Strategies in Illinois Charter Schools (2016-1)

Bradford R. White

The purpose of this study was to investigate how Illinois charter schools are leveraging the flexibility they are provided by law to innovate in the area of human resource management, and to explore the relationships between HR practices and school outcomes. To do this, we conducted surveys and interviews with administrators from 27 Illinois charter schools to describe the ways they recruitment, develop, and retain teachers. We create a typology of four broad HR strategies that are utilized to a greater or lesser extent at each school: 1) incentivist reforms; 2) teacher support and empowerment; 3) information-rich decision-making, and 4) mission-driven practice. Next, we compare these HR strategies with data on teacher retention, school climate, and student achievement to measure the relationship between human resources practices and school outcomes. The analysis reveals evidence suggesting that incentivist practices may be associated with increased math achievement, but this is dependent on how achievement growth is measured. The study also shows that the newest charter schools were considerably less likely to use incentivist practices than their more established counterparts, and that teacher empowerment and information-rich decision-making practices were associated with certain measures to school climate.