High-need, San Antonio-area District Joins Opportunity Culture

by | July 19, 2016

The Harlandale Independent School District, in south-central San Antonio, Texas, has joined the national Opportunity Culture initiative to extend the reach of excellent teachers and their teams to more students, for more pay, within recurring budgets. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) made Texas the first state to support multiple districts in creating an Opportunity Culture; the initiative now includes districts in six states.

Harlandale ISD has about 15,000 students, 97 percent of whom are Hispanic, and more than 1,000 teachers. The district ranks near the bottom among Texas school districts for property wealth, and 100 percent of its students are eligible for free lunch.

Terrell Wells Middle School will implement its Opportunity Culture plans in the 2016–17 school year.  As in all Opportunity Culture schools, a Wells team of teachers and administrators chose among models that use job redesign and age-appropriate technology to reach more students with personalized, high-standards instruction—one hallmark of great teachers. These school teams redesign schedules to provide additional school-day time for teacher planning and collaboration, and reallocate school budgets to fund pay supplements permanently, in contrast to temporarily grant-funded programs.

The school design team at Terrell Wells chose Multi-Classroom Leadership, which calls for excellent teachers to 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 Harlandale, an MCL can earn an annual supplement of $10,000.

Multi-Classroom Leadership has been the most popular—and, on average, highest paid—model that Opportunity Culture schools have used to extend the reach of their excellent teachers to more students within recurring budgets. Team teachers report positive experiences from the support they receive from their MCLs. Early Opportunity Culture schools achieving the largest, fastest gains schoolwide had multi-classroom leaders schoolwide in core subjects.  Their principals formed a team of leaders of these MCLs (and sometimes assistant principals) to lead instruction schoolwide.

Public Impact, which designed the Opportunity Culture model prototypes, and Education First, which has extensive experience facilitating collaborative change in district schools, are assisting the state’s 20 Education Service Centers (ESCs) and the TEA in supporting the state’s Opportunity Culture districts. This work is part of the TEA’s Creating Turnaround Educator Pipelines (CTEP) project, focused on identifying and supporting turnaround efforts.

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