Opportunity Culture® Voices: Mixing Team Leadership, Specialization

by | November 17, 2015

“ ‘One-teacher-one-classroom’ is a phrase you hear a lot in education these days: For the past 11 years, that described me. I taught on my own in self-contained third- and fifth-grade classrooms, and I loved my job. But I had enough leadership opportunities, such as mentoring, working with student teachers, and leading professional development, to develop a passion for working with teachers.

“Now, being an Opportunity Culture® multi-classroom leader—which feeds my new passion of leading a team of teachers while still letting me work with students on a daily basis—is my ideal job. The increase in pay—a supplement of $13,000—is a welcome benefit, too, as the workload and responsibilities have significantly increased. In my one classroom, I reached just 25 students a year. As the MCL, I tripled that.

“Better yet, at my school, Winget Park Elementary in Charlotte, N.C., we combined MCL teams with subject specialization. On the surface, specialization in my Opportunity Culture® school looks like what departmentalizing would look like at another school: I take your kids for science, you take mine for math, and we call it a day. But at that level, not much collaboration occurs, as the science teacher focuses on science concepts and the math teacher focuses on the math concepts. As the MCL, I needed to bring the subjects and teachers together so we all focus on the learning of all our kids.”

–Charlotte-Mecklenburg Multi-Classroom Leader Danielle Bellar, in A Win-Win Model for Students and Teachers

In the latest Opportunity Culture® series column on Real Clear Education, Danielle Bellar makes a compelling case for the deep level of collaboration and greater subject knowledge that came about on the fifth-grade teaching team she began leading last year. Teachers came out of their one classroom of 25 students to teach only the subject each does best: Bellar taught literacy to all 75 students; the team’s other two teachers taught science and math.

What difference did that make? For students, teachers, and parents, a huge difference, Bellar writes. Student achievement grew while negative behaviors dropped; the teachers could go in-depth on their subjects and learn from each other and, especially, Bellar; and parents could see how many teachers now knew and were deeply involved with their children.

“We saw the effect directly on student achievement. End-of-grade state tests showed 5th-grade proficiency rising in all subjects from the previous year—from 61 to 70 percent in math, 49 to 55 percent in reading, and a whopping 69 to 84 percent in science.”

Read more about Bellar and her “ideal job” in the full column, and hear her thoughts on the accompanying video. This is the seventh in the Opportunity Culture® series–read them all here.

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