Could You Give All Students Excellent Teachers–and Pay More?

by | October 10, 2013

What if every U.S. student had a new civil right to an excellent teacher, every year, in all core subjects? What if schools also had to pay teachers at least 20 percent more, within budget? Could you design a school that met those demands?

Try it: Use Public Impact’s free Opportunity Culture scenarios to see if you could design a rural or urban, high-poverty school that

  • closes gaps and helps all students leap ahead by letting excellent teachers take responsibility for all students’ learning in core subjects;
  • pays all teachers more, and excellent teachers who lead teams far more, within budget
  • gives teachers frequent school-day time for planning, team collaboration, and on-the-job development; and
  • does not reduce student learning time.

It’s a tall order, but new school models, now being implemented in pilot schools in the U.S., can make what we call an Opportunity Culture a reality.

Designed to help district and school design teams rethink the one-teacher-one-classroom mode, these scenarios ask planners to assume the role of a school principal. The principal must develop a plan to give all students access to excellent teachers and their teams with the school’s current staff, without any new funding. The principal must make the school attractive by both paying teachers more and offering them a great place to work—full of teaching career advancement opportunities and job-embedded development led by teacher-leaders.

Professors in education, public policy, design, and business schools, as well as instructors in other teacher and leader preparation programs, will find the scenarios and discussion questions helpful. Combined with source materials on OpportunityCulture.org, instructors will find a week or more of instructional material to help students design schools for teaching excellence, paid career opportunities, and on-the-job teacher learning.

Scenario planners will be asked to remember everything they know about great teaching, but clear their minds of the usual image of a school: 25 kids sitting at desks with a teacher in front—and all those teachers working by themselves to serve their 25. Each scenario provides information on the student population, teacher and classroom characteristics, and other details about the school and constraints on the principal. Along with scenarios for rural and urban elementary and secondary schools, one scenario offers the special challenge of designing an education plan for a remote area of a developing country.

The scenarios offer a chance to think boldly about one of the most powerful ways to lift children out of poverty and provide all students with a chance at lifelong success: a great education, led by consistently excellent teachers.

As the Public Impact team has worked with teachers on their pilot school design teams, we have seen how extending the reach of excellent teachers through Opportunity Culture models starts a virtuous cycle enabling increased teacher selectivity, opportunity, and higher pay—for all teachers.

Most Opportunity Culture school models allow all teachers to succeed in teams—increasing the odds of widespread improvement in teaching and learning. Teachers at the pilot schools have responded enthusiastically to new opportunities to lead teams and learn, as team members, from outstanding peers.

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