Indianapolis First to Put Opportunity Culture® Into Contract

by | September 9, 2015

The Indianapolis school board and teachers union recently became the first in the country to include Opportunity Culture® roles in their new contract, offering pay supplements of up to $18,300—35 percent of the district’s average salary. That comes on top of a major base pay raise—the first in five years—for teachers across the board.

Those pay decisions mean that in 2016–17, for example, a 16-year teacher will be able to earn $77,700 by taking on the highest-paid Opportunity Culture® role, leading a team of four to six teachers. (Take note: This pay in Indianapolis is equivalent to pay of more than $110,000 in Washington, D.C. or more than $175,000 in Manhattan.)

The changes are part of an ambitious strategic plan for Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS), under the leadership of Superintendent Lewis Ferebee. The contract was ratified by 93 percent of the union members and approved in a 6–0 vote of the IPS Board of School Commissioners.

The Opportunity Culture® initiative, created by Public Impact®, includes seven districts in five states in 2015–16. Opportunity Culture® models extend the reach of excellent teachers and their teams to more students, for more pay, within budget. Schools provide additional school-day time for planning and collaboration, often with teacher-leaders leading teams and providing frequent, on-the-job development.

A team of teachers and administrators at each school decides how to redo schedules and reallocate money to fund pay supplements permanently, in contrast to temporarily grant-funded programs. Opportunity Culture® schools in IPS are expected to reallocate funds primarily from vacant positions to pay for the supplements.

The Indianapolis Education Association voted to include multiple Opportunity Culture® roles in the contract, with the highest pay for multi-classroom leaders, who continue to teach while leading a team. These “MCLs” coach, co-teach, co-plan and collaborate with their team teachers, while taking accountability for the learning outcomes of all the students the team serves. In IPS, an MCL who leads a team of one teacher and a paraprofessional known as a reach associate will earn a $6,800 stipend. MCLs who lead a team of two to three teachers and a reach associate will earn an $11,400 stipend. Those leading a team of four to six teachers and two reach associates will earn $18,300 stipends.

All teachers teaching on an MCL-led team will earn $1,300 supplements, if the school can afford to do this for each team in the school.

In contrast, of the 120 large-district contracts in the National Council on Teacher Quality’s national database, most stipends are less than $3,000, and the biggest specified leadership stipend (for department chairs in Wichita, Kansas) is $8,614. The Indianapolis Public Schools’ maximum Opportunity Culture® supplement of $18,300 is more than double that amount.

The contract also includes $6,800 supplements for “expanded-impact teachers,” great teachers who extend their reach to at least 33 percent more students with paraprofessional support, but who do not lead teams. These teachers may use enhanced digital instruction, specialization at the elementary level, and other models that include enhanced paraprofessional support.

“We are delighted and impressed by the collaborative environment and genuine commitment we see on the part of both the district and the union in Indianapolis,” said former teacher and Public Impact® senior vice president Lucy Steiner, who is leading Public Impact®’s assistance to IPS schools with these roles. “We will be working with the district and schools to ensure that teachers have the support they need to be effective in these new roles.” The Joyce Foundation is providing partial support to launch Public Impact®’s work with IPS.

IPS is the second collective bargaining district in which the local teachers union has supported Opportunity Culture® roles, but the first to include the roles in its contract for all teachers.

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