How a State Could Achieve Major Gains in Learning, Pay, Economy

by | May 13, 2014

For several years, we’ve been asking teachers and districts to imagine: Imagine schools and a profession where all teachers can improve their teaching, be rewarded for getting better, and reach more students with excellent instruction—by creating an Opportunity Culture® for teachers and students. Districts are responding: As of spring 2014, four districts nationally are piloting Opportunity Culture® models, and one, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, is taking its pilot efforts to scale based on recruiting results and demand from schools.

But what if a whole state reimagined the teaching profession and pursued an Opportunity Culture® for all?  What benefits might accrue for students, teachers and the state as a whole?

Using North Carolina as an example for analysis, Public Impact® ran the numbers—and the results weren’t small.

Opportunity Culture® models redesign jobs to extend the reach of excellent teachers to more students, for more pay, within budget—typically in collaborative teams on which all teachers can pursue instructional excellence together and are formally accountable for all of the students they serve. They are designed to transform the traditional teaching environment and provide new career paths for teachers that allow them to advance their careers without leaving the classroom.

If three-fourths of North Carolina’s classrooms were to implement Opportunity Culture® models over one generation of students—about 16 years of implementation—we projected, using conservative assumptions, that:

  • Students on average would gain 3.4 more years’ worth of learning than in a traditional school model in the K–12 years.
  • Teachers leading teams would earn up to $848,000 more in a 35-year career, with considerably higher figures possible for large-span teacher-leader roles not included in this analysis.
  • Teachers joining teams to extend their reach could earn approximately an additional $240,000 over their careers.
  • State income tax revenue would be up to $700 million higher in present-value terms over 16 years of implementation; increased corporate and sales tax revenues are not included.
  • State domestic product would increase by $4.6 billion to $7.7 billion in present-value terms over the next 16 years.

And that’s just using current numbers for North Carolina, where pay is near the bottom nationally. Teachers leading teams in states with pay closer to the national average would earn up to $1 million more in a 35-year career. (Public Impact® has separately suggested that a 10 percent average base pay increase is also needed for teachers in North Carolina.)

By putting excellent teachers and their teams in charge of more students’ learning, Opportunity Culture® models are projected to produce learning gains that begin immediately and build over time. In a traditional classroom model, students have a one-in-four chance of having a highly effective teacher in any given year in a subject. In the Opportunity Culture® models analyzed in the brief, excellent teachers are responsible for 33 percent to 500 percent more students, directly and via teaching teams, with no class-size increases.

Public Impact®’s analyses project that children would acquire more than three extra years’ worth of learning in a K–12 career—which would translate into average lifetime earnings increases of $100,000 to $130,000 per student, according to research showing the link between student achievement and lifetime earnings potential.

For states, the student achievement gains build a 21st-century workforce for new and expanding businesses.

Applying prior research findings about how gross domestic product increases with student achievement gains, the analyses show that if North Carolina began its implementation in 2015–16, then the annual gross state increases through 2031 would have an estimated net present value of $4.6 billion to $7.7 billion.

The fiscal impact for states is projected to accumulate significantly over time as the increase in individual incomes generates additional revenues from income tax receipts—projected to increase by $700 million, in present value terms, over the 16 years of implementation according to the North Carolina projection. Increased state revenue from corporate and sales taxes resulting from projected income and economic growth are not included in the analysis and would likely increase this figure.

What should state leaders do with these projections? How about putting aside partisanship and assembling a team of philanthropists, educators, and reformers committed to bringing these possibilities to reality? North Carolina—our home state—could be transformed, and so could yours.


See the full brief, Projected Statewide Impact of “Opportunity Culture®” School Models, written by Christen Holly, Stephanie Dean, Emily Ayscue Hassel, and Bryan C. Hassel.


Keep Reading