Published June 20, 2016 on www.syracusecityschools.com
As part of a Districtwide strategy to provide more time for teacher collaboration, a focus on excellent teaching and an overall positive change in school culture, SCSD schools are transitioning to an Opportunity Culture staffing solution.
In its second year at Bellevue, Clary, Grant and Seymour and its first year at Franklin, Huntington, Lincoln and Meachem, the model will begin in 2016-2017 at Danforth, Dr. King, Frazer, Henninger, HW Smith, Nottingham, Van Duyn and Westside Academy at Blodgett.
The goals of Opportunity Culture schools are twofold: to give more students access to excellent teaching, and to transform teaching into a highly paid profession with opportunities for career advancement. To achieve this, a structure is put in place in which an excellent teacher—a Multi-Classroom Leader (MCL)—serves in a leadership role, overseeing other teachers to lead them in executing strategies and best practices.
These Multi-Classroom Leaders specialize in high-priority subjects and the most crucial, challenging roles, opening up time for the classroom teachers to reach more students. Nineteen Multi-Classroom Leaders have been added across all eight current SCSD Opportunity Culture Schools, and nine existing MCL’s continued in their roles in these schools.
“The idea behind Opportunity Culture is to provide more collaborative planning time to keep teachers on the same page, while also ensuring that no children are left without the resources they need to be successful,” Talent Management Coordinator Jeanie Aversa explained. “This model gives schools the ability to utilize staff in the best way for their students and their own unique needs.”
At Seymour, for example, one MCL leads each grade level. The school has already seen great success with the Opportunity Culture model in this way, with students outperforming other District schools in assessments for the second year in a row. School staff attribute this to the collaboration and communication encouraged by Opportunity Culture.
“I see all the kids, I have access to all the teachers, I can co-teach, and I’m held accountable just like they are,” Seymour science teacher and 4th grade MCL Russ Stanton explained. “I’m it it with them, so that forces us to have courageous conversations. I can help teachers understand new District and school initiatives and how we can implement them well in our classrooms.”
The MCL position has been welcomed by teachers—despite the constructive feedback and difficult conversations that can ensue—because they have seen the benefit of this position on both their students and their own teaching.
“Having the MCL gives us another set of eyes in the classroom providing objective input,” fourth grade Math teacher Donna Worden said. “Russ has helped us work with the kids at the level they’re on. Sometimes, children are so far behind grade level that they just give up. Now, we are able to team kids in the classroom with others who are at their ability level. Having the MCL has really allowed us to teach in a new way, focusing on the best practice for each student in each lesson, rather than just gunning it.”
Opportunity Culture also allows schools the ability to reallocate their budgets to increase digital learning, expanding a key component of personalized, bended learning in which students spend part of the school day engaged in age- and child-appropriate digital activities.
All of this is an effort to ensure that students are on track to be college and career ready, even from a young age. “Beyond the testing, we want our students to be better students,” Mr. Stanton added. “We want them to be prepared for their next steps, middle school, high school and beyond. Having the MCL role gives us the most support for both teachers and students to help make this happen.”
Great work to all of our Multi-Classroom Leaders and school staff for their efforts in implementing this new strategy!