Central Office Human Resources Transformation (COHRT) Network launches to improve teacher quality and diversity in Washington state

June 22, 2022

The University of Washington College of Education’s District Leadership Design Lab (DL2) and Center for Education Data and Research (CEDR) are launching the Central Office HR Transformation (COHRT) Network, a project to support Washington state school districts in dramatically improving teacher quality and diversity in service of educational equity, thanks to generous support from the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Decades of research show that the quality of classroom teaching is the most powerful school-related influence on student learning and the diversity of a district’s teacher workforce is important for all students, especially those identifying as Black, Indigenous, Latinx and students of color. 

School district human resources (HR) offices can be vital drivers of teacher quality and diversity through teacher recruitment, selection, development and retention. However, HR offices have lacked the capacity or support to do so, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

CEDR director Dan Goldhaber said, “School systems are fundamentally about people and the knowledge and skills they bring. Understanding how to improve and coordinate the various human resource systems that help determine which teachers are in front of students is therefore integral to everything about schooling.” 

DL2 and CEDR aim to help Washington school districts transform their HR units into drivers of teacher quality and diversity. During the two-year project, they will work with a core group of HR directors from across the state in a collaborative learning network. Through online and in-person experiences, HR directors will engage with the latest research and experience in the field and use data on their district’s workforce to support HR transformation. DL2 and CEDR then will create tools that HR leaders statewide can use to inform their own work.

School systems are fundamentally about people and the knowledge and skills they bring.

This project marks a first-time partnership between DL2 and CEDR, each of which brings decades of research and experience to the collaboration. Director of DL2 Meredith Honig and her team have authored some of the main research in the field about how district central offices support equitable teaching and learning with HR units at the forefront. Through their partnerships with districts across the country, including a long-standing relationship with Washington’s Highline Public Schools (HPS), DL2 has been helping district leaders use that research to strengthen their central offices and generate promising new approaches. 

For over a decade under Dan Goldhaber’s leadership, CEDR has focused on the connections between students’ K-12 schooling experiences and their short- and long-term outcomes, including extensive work on the teacher labor market. Much of CEDR’s work in Washington has included collaborations between teacher preparation programs and school districts in order to better understand the key role of student teaching in teacher preparation and ways that districts can increase the quality of their workforces through the hiring process.

Dr. Steve Grubb, chief talent officer in HPS reflected, “I have greatly appreciated working with the UW District Leadership Design Lab over the past few years on using the latest research to transform our HR department to better serve principals, teachers and schools in realizing educational equity. I know in this new network that I will be challenged in my thinking and provided with principles and prompts to further improve our practice and have new opportunities to collaborate with colleagues across the state.”

“We now know more than ever about how districts can support teacher quality and diversity but district leaders often don’t have access to that knowledge or support for using it,” said Honig. “We designed the COHRT Network to provide that access and support across Washington and, in the process, to learn with and from them how to ensure teachers’ success with nothing short of making equitable teaching and learning a reality in every classroom every day.” 


Inquiries about the District Leadership Design Lab (DL2) may be directed to DL2@uw.edu.

Inquiries about the Center for Education Data and Research (CEDR) may be directed to CEDR@uw.edu