State Leaders: Set These Policies to Enable an Opportunity Culture®

by | October 15, 2014

What students want–great US map (3)teachers every year–and what teachers want–career advancement without leaving teaching, on-the-job professional learning and collaboration, and the chance to help more students succeed–come together in an Opportunity Culture®. What’s the missing piece? State policies to back up schools and districts and their educators committed to reaching many more students with excellent teachers and their teams, for more pay, within budget and without forcing class-size increases.

In the just-released Seizing Opportunity at the Top II policymakers’ checklist and full report, Public Impact® takes the lessons we’ve learned in working with teachers and leaders in districts in four states and distills them into the “urgent” and “optimal” policies a state needs to enable pilot and statewide Opportunity Culture®s. See the two-page checklist for a quick policy overview, then use the full brief for details on crafting new policies.

We have seen up close the impact state policies make, even in small pilot programs. Some policies limit the goals of reaching more students with excellent teaching. Others limit higher pay, within budget. Still others limit the addition of more planning and collaboration time for teachers and teaching teams.

If state and district leaders commit to reaching every student with excellent teaching consistently, then make these policy changes, far more students can experience the teaching they need to close achievement gaps and leap ahead to advanced work. All teachers can learn on the job, and great teachers can lead on the job.

The needed policies fall into five categories:

  • Identifying and Developing Teaching Excellence
  • Flexibility to Staff Schools
  • Flexibility for Instructional Delivery
  • Accountability and Feedback for Results
  • Rewarding and Retaining Excellent Teachers

For example, many states need policy changes to ensure that:

  • Districts can spend their full allocations of state funding on higher teacher pay, and technology as needed, to support advanced roles for teachers
  • Evaluations recognize team teaching and team leadership by matching the formal accountability for students to the actual role and responsibilities of each teacher
  • Teachers may use paraprofessional support to supervise student skills practice, so that teaching teams have time to reach more students and collaborate on instructional planning and improvement during school hours.

In just the first year of pilot Opportunity Culture® schools, we and our partners have worked with administrators and hundreds of teachers committed to reaching all students with teaching excellence. For the sake of all their students, states should respect and encourage these teachers’ commitments by creating the policies to back them up.

Seizing Opportunity at the Top II was written by Stephanie Dean, Emily Ayscue Hassel, and Bryan C. Hassel.

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