Cabarrus County, N.C., Schools Join Opportunity Culture® Initiative

by | May 12, 2014

A second North Carolina district has joined its neighbor in implementing an Opportunity Culture®: Three elementary schools and seven high schools in Cabarrus County, N.C., will pilot Opportunity Culture® models in 2014–15–affecting approximately 1,000 students in the first year of implementation alone.

Public Impact® will assist some of the school teams in redesigning their schools. These schools will each have a team of administrators and teachers to choose and adapt the models that fit their school best, following the Opportunity Culture® Principles.

The district is beginning work without philanthropic support for the costs of making this transition, but hopes to obtain funding to support additional school-level design teams. Six of the high schools asked to be included after hearing a presentation about Opportunity Culture® models from the first high school principal to opt in this spring and Jason Van Heukelum, deputy superintendent of curriculum and instruction for Cabarrus County.

Once schools make the transition to an Opportunity Culture®, the higher pay is all funded within existing school budgets, not temporary grants. (See financial analyses of the models here.)

The Cabarrus County district, which includes Concord, N.C., has 39 schools and 30,000 students, 43 percent of whom are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. Its schools join neighboring Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) in implementing an Opportunity Culture®. Four CMS schools piloted their new models this school year, and CMS announced plans in January to scale up its Opportunity Culture® work to include nearly half of the district’s schools by 2017–18.

“We strive to provide all of our students access to excellent teachers, while at the same time we struggle to pay our teachers a competitive salary,” Van Heukelum said. “Opportunity Culture® models address both of these areas, and we are excited to partner with Public Impact® in this work.”

Design teams from the Cabarrus schools visited Ashley Park Elementary and Ranson IB Middle, two of the CMS schools implementing an Opportunity Culture® this year. Design teams at the elementary schools are considering using some combination of Multi-Classroom Leadership, Time Swaps, and Elementary Subject Specialization.

“Cabarrus County first contemplated creating an Opportunity Culture® when it applied for the Race to the Top district competition,” said Bryan C. Hassel, Public Impact®’s co-director. “The district was one of 35 finalists across the country, but didn’t win. Regardless, the district’s leaders saw the benefits for its students and teachers and forged ahead, with enthusiasm from both participating principals and teachers.”

See here for more on other districts piloting the Opportunity Culture® models.

Stay tuned: Tomorrow, Public Impact® will release a report estimating the economic, fiscal, pay, and learning impact if North Carolina were to implement Opportunity Culture® schools statewide.

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