Great Learning Starts with Great Staff

At The Principal Center, we define instructional leadership as the practice of making and implementing operational and improvement decisions in the service of student learning

Student learning and school improvement depend on a stable, professional teaching and support staff. Now more than ever, school leaders must meet HR challenges head on. 

The Principal Center is proud to present the HR Excellence 2023-2024 Cohort, or HRX—now accepting inquiries from public, network, and independent schools worldwide. 

Why Staffing Challenges Are Growing

Starting the school year fully staffed—and staying that way—is no longer a given. 

The education workforce has changed dramatically over the past four years. Even before the pandemic, teachers in hard-to-fill areas such as SPED, math, and science were in short supply. 

Enrollment in teacher education programs has been on the decline for years, and a wave of retirements and resignations has only exacerbated the problem. 

As other fields have increased pay, education has become less attractive by comparison, and teacher working conditions aren't helping. 

The stress of the past few years has made teaching an even more difficult job, and new hires with less training and experience need more support.

If we want to win the competition for talent, and make the people we hire successful, we must focus on factors within our control.

Fortunately, instructional leaders have a great deal of leverage over 8 sets of factors.

The 8 Pillars of Human Resources Excellence

School leaders can attract and retain talented staff by leveraging 8 sets of factors: 

  • Safety & Order
  • Recruiting & Hiring
  • Onboarding & Induction
  • Professionalism & Autonomy
  • Workload & Resources
  • Goal-Setting & Professional Growth
  • Walkthroughs & Feedback
  • Observations & Evaluations

Let's look at how these factors impact staffing, and how we can influence them. 

Pillar #1: Safety & Order

Great people know they can only do great work in a safe, orderly environment. 

One reason teachers report leaving their jobs—or leaving the education profession entirely—is the stress they face from unsafe and overwhelming working conditions. 

Student behavior—including violence against teachers—has risen to unprecedented levels, and teachers are reporting that there are often no consequences for serious misbehavior. 

In HRX, participants will assess key school climate factors and develop an action plan to increase safety and learning-focused behavior across campus. 

Pillar #2: Recruiting & Hiring

School leaders can no longer count on a flood of well-qualified applicants when they post a position. The power dynamic has shifted—schools are competing for talent. 

Hiring now requires strategic action, from the job description, to recruiting outreach, to application screening, to the interview process. 

In HRX, participants will develop a recruiting plan, job descriptions, and seamless processes for hiring excellent staff for every role. 

Pillar #3: Onboarding & Induction

Hiring is just the beginning for new staff, who need robust onboarding and induction support to bolster their commitment and ensure their success on the job. 

Too often, new hires are left to their own devices as they prepare for the new school year and attempt to build relationships with their colleagues. 

Without a strong connection to their new school, new hires are vulnerable to better offers—a shorter commute, more money, or the chance to work with friends. 

In HRX, participants will develop an onboarding and induction plan, and use social media templates to welcome and integrate new hires into the school community—increasing their commitment and reducing the need for last-minute hiring. 

Pillar #4: Professionalism & Autonomy

Great people want to work with great people, and have the opportunity to do great work. Too often, these essential conditions are threatened by unprofessional colleagues and micromanagement. 

Each staff member is hired to do a specific job—the what of the work—but professionals need a high degree of autonomy over the how.

And they need colleagues who won't wear them down with unprofessional behavior like gossip, freeloading, and chronic absenteeism. 

Teachers who leave their jobs often do so in search of better colleagues and more autonomy. 

In HRX, participants will use the Micromanagement Matrix to identify key zones of autonomy, and will use targeted interventions to deal with unprofessional behavior. 

Pillar #5: Workload & Resources

In our attempts to improve teaching and learning, we often make the job harder

Teachers often cite endless meetings and paperwork—data spreadsheets, call logs, lesson plans—as a chief source of overwhelm. 

We need to streamline the work so teachers can focus on their core duties, and ensure that they have the resources—such as curriculum and supplies—to do this work without reinventing the wheel, buying supplies out-of-pocket, or searching the internet for questionable lesson resources.

In HRX, participants will streamline their expectations so teachers can focus on their core work. 

Pillar #6: Goal-Setting & Professional Growth

Great teachers want to keep getting better. The annual goal-setting process can play a central role in this growth, but too often, it's a painful exercise in compliance. 

In HRX, participants will learn how to create the psychological safety teachers need to set and pursue ambitious professional goals that will maximize their growth. 

Pillar #7: Walkthroughs & Feedback

Great teachers don't want to be micromanaged, but they don't want to be ignored, either. 

The key, according to the Autonomy Matrix, is professional respect—a combination of autonomy and attention from instructional leaders, offering the support people need without micromanagement. 

The Autonomy Matrix

In HRX, you'll learn how to visit classrooms every day and have feedback conversations that change teacher practice and inform your leadership decisions, without the top-down feel of traditional feedback. 

Pillar #8: Observations & Evaluations

Lastly, maintaining a great staff requires effective supervision and evaluation. Every student deserves an excellent teacher, and every teacher deserves a fair, evidence-driven evaluation. 

In HRX, you'll learn how to capture rich evidence of practice and use it to make defensible, well-informed decisions about each teacher's evaluation and employment. 

Registration includes the full Evidence-Driven Teacher Evaluation Certification Program, so you'll have our comprehensive training and time-saving tools for teacher evaluations. 

Our Flagship Teacher Evaluation Program

Teacher evaluations are necessary, but they often don't feel worth the effort—and who has time to put in even more effort?

To become more than a formality, teacher evaluation needs an overhaul—but what can we change while respecting established contracts and policies?

HRX includes the full Evidence-Driven Teacher Evaluation Certification Program, our flagship training for instructional leaders. 

In Evidence-Driven Teacher Evaluation, we focus on our task itself: how we observe, document, discuss, and rate teacher practice. 

We can follow the existing rules, but get superior results. 

We have the opportunity to conduct dramatically better observations and evaluations in less time, through a combination of time-tested and innovative approaches, aided by new technology.

At the heart of this approach is evidence—that's why we call the whole process evidence-driven.

Evidence isn't a hammer—the proof we need for a "gotcha" evaluation. It's how we uphold our "Hippocratic Oath" as instructional leaders: 

Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

Changing the way we think about evidence is the shortcut to faster, better teacher evaluations. Here's what you'll learn in each module of Evidence-Driven Teacher Evaluation.

What You'll Learn in Each Module

Module 1

Goal-Setting for Teacher Growth

  • Process accountability vs. performance accountability, and which type to use for SMART goals
  • How to foster a growth mindset and create the safety teachers need to set ambitious goals—within your current district process
  • How to use the 5P Goal System to help teachers set the right kinds of goals
  • Three keys to intrinsic motivation, and how to foster them in the goal-setting process
  • The most common goal-setting mistake—and how to avoid short-circuiting teacher growth and accountability

Module 3

Evidence-Driven Formal Observations

  • How to gather plenty of evidence for every domain of practice, even if you only do one formal observation
  • Why low-inference scripting is better than observation forms
  • How to handle inter-rater reliability across your admin team or district
  • What to do when you don't have evidence for some evaluation criteria
  • Why teacher practice is like an iceberg, and how to get evidence of the 80% we can't see 

Module 5

Leveraging Time & Effort for Maximum Impact

  • Why it's crucial to prioritize evaluations based on risk, not just known performance issues
  • How to use the "Bucket Strategy" to re-use specific types writing for multiple teachers
  • Extreme Differentiation—why some evaluations take dramatically more time and effort, and how to free up this time
  • The 3 factors that place teachers at risk of unexpected performance issues
  •  How to handle performance issues that aren't resolved at the end of the school year 

Module 2

Instructional Frameworks as Growth Pathways

  • 4 indicators of teacher practices that will affect student learning the most
  • How to help already-good and already-great teachers keep growing
  • How to use your evaluation criteria to design a developmental pathway for teachers who aren't meeting expectations
  • The 3 elements of fluency, and how to help teachers attain proficiency in areas they're struggling with
  • How to tell if your expectations are high enough, and how to raise them if you need to

Module 4

Rating Teacher Performance & Writing Airtight Final Evaluations with GSIR

  • How to ensure that every teacher receives an accurate rating of their performance—and what to do if you're short on evidence
  • A proven format for writing final evaluations that will withstand even the closest scrutiny from HR, union reps, and attorneys
  • How to address performance concerns that will need to be a focus the following year
  • What to say about unmet SMART goals
  • How to use our Final Evaluation Builder's multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank templates


Further Tools & Training

  • How to write performance improvement plans (PIPs)
  • Using HR processes—outside of the formal evaluation process—to address misconduct
  • Evaluating non-teaching staff
  • Tools including our GSIR Final Evaluation Builder, Evaluation Organizer Spreadsheet, and Staff Risk Assessment worksheet
  • Working With Your Office Staff
  • Classroom Walkthroughs for Admin Teams

In-Depth Monthly Trainings & Office Hours

Each month in the Cohort, we'll release a new in-depth training on one of the 8 Pillars, along with tools to match.

Cohort participants will have the opportunity to attend a live Zoom "office hours" session to discuss human resources challenges and receive assistance. 

Since we will have participants from a variety of timezones around the world, sessions will be offered at different times, and individual 1:1 consultations can be arranged as needed. 

Plus, you'll get access to our growing HR Toolkit.

Time-Saving Letters, Tools, and Templates

Each month, you'll receive new in-depth training and tools to help you address your highest priorities. 

HR work often involves high-stakes writing, such as evaluations, letters of recommendation, and letters of reprimand. By using our proven templates and practices, you'll tackle HR challenges with greater confidence and speed than ever before. 

You'll receive immediate access to our existing tools, such as the:

  • GSIR Final Evaluation Builder
  • PIP (Performance Improvement Plan) Decision Tree & Template
  • Letter of Reprimand Template & Training

Who Is This Program For?


  • Use the goal-setting and observation process to actually change teacher practice—not just for compliance
  • Use a risk-based approach to differentiating your supervision and support for each teacher
  • Give accurate ratings that teachers won't argue with, and will instead embrace as opportunities for growth
  • Dramatically cut the time you spend on paperwork for teachers who are doing well
  • Increase teachers' intrinsic motivation and ownership of their professional growth

Principal Supervisors & HR Pros

  • Give your principals a clear process for addressing both performance and conduct issues using the right tools for each
  • Reduce teacher grievances and complaints about formal evaluation ratings
  • Retain teachers by enhancing their status and autonomy as professionals
  • Align expectations for practice across the organization

Assistant Principals

  • Take your instructional leadership to the next level by conducting evidence-driven observations and evaluations
  • Build relationships with teachers via evidence-driven feedback conversations
  • Become a systems thinker by forging connections between individual teacher needs and your school-level improvement agenda
  • Align your expectations for teaching & learning as an admin team 
  • Deal with teacher conduct issues in a firm, respectful manner that demonstrates your readiness for the principalship

Aspiring Administrators

  • Learn how to become a welcome presence in classrooms—and a trusted thought partner to teachers
  • Develop productivity systems and habits for staying on top of the heavy admin workload, especially during evaluations
  • Articulate your impact on teacher practice and student learning, so you can ace your next interview
  • Prepare for your next level of impact as an instructional leader

About Your Instructor

HRX is led by Dr. Justin Baeder, Director of The Principal Center.

Dr. Baeder is author of Mapping Professional Practice: How to Develop Instructional Frameworks to Support Teacher Growth as well as Now We're Talking! 21 Days to High-Performance Instructional Leadership (both published by Solution Tree), and creator of the Instructional Leadership Challenge, which has helped more than 10,000 leaders in 50 countries make a daily habit of classroom visits.

He holds a PhD in Educational Leadership & Policy Studies from the University of Washington, and helps senior leaders in K-12 organizations build capacity for instructional leadership


When you enroll in the 2023–2024 HRX Cohort, we'll include even more to help you succeed:

12-Month Leadership Association Membership ($1,188 value)

Our tools and trainings help you build capacity for instructional leadership, with new resources each month, plus Repertoire Content Creator, the professional writing app for instructional leaders

Concierge Setup of Repertoire App

  • Staff import
  • Instructional framework import
  • Personal 1:1 training

The Inbox Overhaul

Is email keeping you out of classrooms? An out-of-control inbox can be stressful and overwhelming. If you're ready for an Inbox Overhaul, this program will help you get your inbox empty every day, so you can use email the way it was intended—as a powerful communication tool.

Working with Office Staff & Your Admin Team

Office staff and other administrators on your team are crucial to your success in getting into classrooms. In these two bonus trainings, you'll learn how to work as a team, so you can cover for and support each other, and still get into classrooms every day.

Performance Improvement Plan Decision Tree +
PIP Template

Not sure when or how to address staff performance issues with a PIP? Our interactive PIP Decision Tree will help you make the right call, and our editable PIP template makes it easy to craft a high-impact Plan of Improvement. 

Who Should Register?

HRX is designed for:

  • School-based administrators who hire, supervise, and evaluate teachers
  • District-level HR professionals involved in any aspect of teacher hiring, appraisal, improvement, or conduct investigations
  • Heads of School, superintendents, directors, and principal supervisors who set policies and develop procedures for hiring, teacher evaluation, student discipline, and other factors impacting staffing
  • Aspiring administrators preparing for their first supervisory role

While this program focuses a great deal on supporting teachers in improving their practice, it is not designed for department heads, team leaders, or instructional coaches who aren't involved in supervision or organizational management. 

Learn At Your Own Pace—Lifetime Access

HRX includes timely live support throughout the year, as well as on-demand modules you can complete at your own pace. 

No time now? Get right to work with our tools, and go through the modules at your convenience.

Your registration includes lifetime access to the entire program, including all future live support cohorts. 

Money-Back Guarantee

The HR Excellence Cohort (HRX) will dramatically strengthen your instructional leadership skills and help you ensure staffing excellence throughout the year.

We're fully confident that it's the most powerful professional development for instructional leaders anywhere—but don't take our word for it. Try the program for yourself, and experience the transformation that it brings to your leadership.

If you're not 100% satisfied with the our program for any reason, contact us within 30 days for a full refund.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is this for?

HRX is for educational leaders, including Principals, APs, Directors, Heads of School, Superintendents, and other leaders involved in hiring and supervision.

Is this for Human Resources professionals?

Not specifically, no. I will assume you are in the school admin world with supervisory duties, not in an HR-only role.

Those who coach or otherwise support principals are welcome to participate.

What organizational context will you assume?

We will have participants from the full range—from small independent schools to large urban districts. I will assume that the following factors are largely out of your control: 

  • Teacher evaluation policies & procedures
  • Teacher pay & labor market conditions
  • Legal & regulatory requirements
  • Available talent pool 

These constraints pose challenges, but leave ample room for leaders to act decisively to improve staffing and staff performance. We will likely have participants from public and private schools in the US and Canada, American international schools around the world, and perhaps Australia & NZ.

What are the 8 Pillars of HR Excellence?

The 8 Pillars are:

1. Safety & Order
2. Recruiting & Hiring
3. Onboarding & Induction
4. Professionalism & Autonomy
5. Workload & Resources
6. Goal-Setting & Professional Growth
7. Walkthroughs & Feedback
8. Observations & Evaluations

What training materials and tools will be available?

I'll give you everything for Pillar 1, Safety & Order, free as a sample.

I released the first tool, our Safety & Order Assessment, last week.

You'll also find an outline of the Safety & Order concepts and research, as well as a 40-minute training, here on our Progressive Discipline page.

What's the format?

Each month, we will have a training (mostly in a webinar format, with recordings provided), as well as an office hours call and an opportunity for individual consultations at a mutually agreeable time.

We will also release tools and templates to save you time—along the lines of our existing tools like: 

  • GSIR Final Evaluation Builder
  • PIP Decision Tree
  • PIP Template
  • Letter of Reprimand template (coming soon)

Can I pay with Fiscal Year '23-'24 funds? How about '22-'23?

Yes, you can pay with funds from either fiscal year—we're happy to work with you whether you're using school funding or paying out of pocket.

I have a team I'd like to register—do you offer group rates?

Yes, we offer a substantial discount for groups of two or more. Request more information for details.

How long do I have to complete the program?

Your purchase includes lifetime access to the Evidence-Driven Teacher Evaluation Certification Program and all HRX program materials. 

You can go through the program as many times as you'd like, and complete the Certification component whenever you want. 

HRX live sessions, including 1:1 consultations, trainings, and office hours, will occur throughout the 2023–2024 school year. 

Is this approach compatible with our evaluation system?

Yes, this approach is compatible with any teacher evaluation system. Participants will have access to our Repertoire Content Creator app, which makes it easy to take evidence-rich notes using the specific vocabulary of a shared instructional framework. Our members use a wide range of frameworks, including:

  • Danielson
  • Marzano
  • Stronge
  • Marshall
  • T-TESS

and many others.

What does the Certification mean?

The Evidence-Driven Teacher Evaluation Certification signifies a deep knowledge and demonstrated practice of effective teacher supervision and evaluation.

Prospective employers can be confident that candidates who hold the Certification will be instructional leaders who get into classrooms every day, have feedback conversations that change teacher practice, and have a deep understanding of their school's strengths and opportunities for improvement.

Do I have to attend live sessions at a certain time?

You are welcome to participate in live cohort sessions or watch recordings on-demand at your convenience.

Because we have participants all over the world, 1:1 consultations and office hours calls will be scheduled at mutually agreeable times. 

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