HR Excellence Awards 2014

Innovation (Organization): Battelle For Kids

From the August 2014 issue of Columbus CEO

As superintendent of the Franklin Local School District, Sharon McDermott’s responsibilities include rewarding teacher effectiveness based on complicated formulas. Every time that duty rolls around, she gives thanks for Battelle For Kids and its BFK Award system.

Developed by the Battelle For Kids Human Capital Team, BFK Awards is an online program that analyzes and ensures data quality and transparency to help school districts estimate and distribute performance-based compensation.

The team has partnered with more than 125 districts in 16 states to develop or improve human-capital programs in areas including recruitment, hiring, professional development, evaluation, compensation and management.

The program also helped the 13-year-old nonprofit Battelle For Kids set itself apart to earn the Innovation Award.

Battelle for Kids was founded in 2001 through a partnership with the Ohio Business Roundtable. It was supported by an initial grant from Battelle Memorial Institute to improve Ohio’s public education. In 2005, the program expanded to offer school-improvement services to educators nationwide.

Tony Bagshaw, managing director of the human capital program, says BFK works not with children (as the name might imply), but rather with teachers and education leaders to strengthen organizations in four key areas: practices, people, metrics and messages.

“We are, at our core, an innovation implementation consulting group,” Bagshaw says. “[Our] philosophy is, ‘With, not to.’”

To that end, the BFK Award was developed to help districts improve their employee interactions in relation to bonus compensation and hiring.

Executive Director Jim Mahoney says the software program enables school districts to sort data more efficiently and in ways they never before could. Smart data use promotes better teaching and student outcomes.

“For the last decade, we have been in huge data-collection mode,” Mahoney says. “This gives us the opportunity to look at things differently. There is no one-size-fits-all way to do this, and we don’t believe teaching and learning can ever be captured by one measure. This is flexible…software to determine what’s important.”

The BFK Award was actually the result of an established relationship between Battelle For Kids and a Houston school district that had developed a similar system but found challenges in data quality and transparence.

That led BFK’s human-capital team to collaborate with numerous districts across the country to develop a platform that would address individual and overall needs. The BFK Award now allows districts to:

Calculate and show employee award amounts

Display explanations of eligibility and program requirements

Monitor employee inquiries and deliver responses

Correct errors and omissions

McDermott says she has been using the BFK Award to disseminate money from an Ohio Department of Education Teacher Incentive Fund Grant among the 150 teachers she has in five buildings. She considers it a vast improvement over the more “simple” model she used previously.

“Battelle takes all of our information and puts it into the award system, so we can verify teachers met all the goals we have set for them,” says McDermott. “This has allowed us, as a district, to look at compensation in a different manner and put together a sustainable compensation plan. And even more so, it has allowed us to work together as a team.”

Mahoney says the recognition for the BFK Award is fulfilling not only for the program, but also for the human-capital team, which he says is often hidden behind the technical nature of its work.

“We are the septic-tank cleaners,” he says. “We are not afraid to get dirty with folks. We like working with people and trying to figure out a way to be more efficient. This is an affirmation for that group, which is trying to solve problems with school people across the country.”

BFK’s work helps schools create compensation systems that can encourage the best teachers to serve in under-performing schools and teach hard-to-staff subjects.