Indianapolis District Lays Opportunity Culture Groundwork

by | May 11, 2015

Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) is joining the Opportunity Culture initiative to extend the reach of its excellent teachers and teams they lead to more students, for more pay, within budget. With the support of Public Impact, IPS will lay the groundwork by June for up to six schools to opt into piloting Opportunity Culture staffing models, to reach many more students with great teaching and create career paths for teachers to join teams, advance their careers, and lead peers without having to leave the classroom.

In an Opportunity Culture, teachers lead the way to change their schools. Opportunity Culture models use job redesign and age-appropriate technology to extend teachers’ reach. A school design team of teachers and administrators at each school selects and adapts the models to fit their school best. IPS pilot schools will create these teams over the summer, and they will work toward implementing the new models in the 2016–17 school year.

“We’re delighted to give our schools the opportunity to give all teachers the support, on-the-job learning, leadership opportunities, and higher pay they deserve,” said Superintendent Lewis Ferebee.  “I want all students to benefit from excellent teaching.”

Support is a hallmark of Opportunity Culture schools. Teachers typically work in collaborative teams, with set-aside time during school hours for planning and developing their skills, along with frequent feedback from the teaching team leaders.

Pilot schools will receive help changing their schedules to make this set-aside time possible and developing an effective team process focused on excellent teaching. This team collaboration and teacher-led improvement provides a supportive environment for teachers to address student needs.

In Opportunity Culture schools, each school design team chooses how to reallocate its regular budget to pay teachers substantial supplements. This makes pay supplements permanently available to teachers, rather than temporarily, as in grant-funded pay plans.  Supplementary compensation is layered on top of the regular salary schedule. Schools may also have initial, temporary transition costs such as facilitation of school and district design decisions and technology investments.

Public Impact created the core models and launched the national Opportunity Culture initiative in 2011. IPS joins school districts in Syracuse, N.Y., Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., Nashville, Tenn., Cabarrus County, N.C., and others in creating their own Opportunity Cultures. In 2015, the initiative is extending its Opportunity Culture work to principals, as well.

  • See what teachers in other Opportunity Culture say about their jobs in this video.
  • See a summary of the Opportunity Culture approach.

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