Competencies of High Performers

Measuring competencies—patterns of thinking, feeling, speaking and acting—that distinguish high-performing school leaders and teachers is a powerful tool for school improvement. Competencies may be used to select, evaluate, promote and develop teachers and leaders. The guides, toolkits, and real-world examples below focus on the use of competencies in a turnaround setting and other school contexts.

Turnaround Setting

School turnarounds are possible, but they take a concerted effort with daring leadership at the helm and persistent, achievement-oriented collaboration among staff. For turnaround efforts to succeed, nothing is more important than making sure that the leaders and teachers who are selected for these challenging roles have the capacity and the will to make a turnaround happen.

The four resources in the Competencies for Turnaround Success Series are designed to help district officials identify and hire the right leaders and teachers for this demanding role. These resources clarify the most critical competencies–or patterns of thinking, feeling, speaking, and acting–that enable people to be successful in attempts to transform schools from failure to excellence quickly and dramatically.

The series includes two guides that describe the most critical turnaround competencies. The leader guide provides competency definitions, school examples, and detailed levels of increasingly effective competence. The teacher version provides competency definitions and school examples only.

compthumbsmalllead     School Turnaround Leaders: Competencies for Success (pdf)

compthumbsmallteach     School Turnaround Teachers: Competencies for Success (pdf)

Public Impact also developed two companion “toolkits” that can be used as step-by-step guides by districts and other organizations seeking to hire individuals to serve as turnaround principals or teachers. The toolkits include detailed levels of increasingly effective competence, selection questions, and guidance on how to conduct interviews that reveal information about competencies, and scoring rubrics.

compthumbsmallleadtool     School Turnaround Leaders: Selection Toolkit (pdf)

compthumbsmallteachtool     School Turnaround Teachers: Selection Toolkit (pdf)

These four resources were developed with funding and support from The Chicago Public Education Fund and, in the case of Leaders for School Turnarounds: Selection Toolkit, additional funding and support from the District of Columbia Public Schools.

If you would like printed, bound copies of any of these materials, you can obtain them from the print-on-demand service All proceeds from print purchases go to, not Public Impact.

Other School Contexts


Using Competency-Based Evaluation to Drive Teacher Excellence: Lessons from Singapore [pdf]

Many of Singapore’s lower-achieving students are learning at levels higher than gifted-student curricula in U.S. schools. What is the secret to Singapore’s success? One element stands out: the development and thorough use of performance-linked “competencies” to measure, reward, and develop teacher performance. This report was written with support from The Joyce Foundation. Read more…