Phoenix-area Districts to Use Opportunity Culture

by | October 5, 2016

“I know Opportunity Culture is one of the best strategies we can offer.”

–Maricopa County Superintendent of Schools Don Covey

Using a $60 million federal grant, Arizona’s Maricopa County Education Service Agency (MCESA) will help at least five small and medium-size Phoenix-area districts and one charter network design and implement Opportunity Culture school models that reach many more students with excellent teachers. Teachers in new, advanced roles will earn substantial pay supplements, which will continue after the grant ends.

Opportunity Culture schools create teacher and teacher-leader roles that aim to provide all students with access to excellent teaching, consistently. These roles extend great teachers’ reach to more students and provide teachers with teacher-led, on-the-job learning and paid career advancement opportunities, all funded within regular school budgets.

Money used from the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) grant will support districts and schools in making the transition to new school models. Pay for advanced roles will be funded with each school’s budget, making Opportunity Culture compensation sustainable. Less than 2 percent of the TIF grant will be used for temporary transition costs.

“A recent survey shows Arizona school districts have over 8,000 teacher vacancies. Low teacher pay and support are cited as the reason. School districts need strategies for recruiting, retaining, and sustaining effective educators. I know Opportunity Culture is one of the best strategies we can offer,” said Maricopa County Superintendent of Schools Don Covey.

Arizona and its districts join 10 other districts in six other states nationwide that are already designing or implementing Opportunity Culture models, with more joining each year since the first schools implemented in 2013.

Lori Renfro, assistant superintendent of Human Capital Management Systems, who oversaw the TIF applications, also noted that Arizona is facing an unprecedented teacher shortage.

“The partnership with Opportunity Culture has come at a perfect time,” Renfro said. “Opportunity Culture will empower our school districts to capitalize on the talent they already have, and increase their likelihood of attracting higher-quality candidates in the future.”

In Arizona, Roosevelt Elementary School District, Wilson Elementary School District, Nadaburg Unified School District, Mobile Elementary School District, Maricopa County Regional School District, Incito Schools, and possibly one more district will be part of the Opportunity Culture initiative. These districts, a mix of rural and smaller urban districts and a district formed to help students in transition graduate, include more than 1,000 teachers who could benefit once Opportunity Culture plans are fully implemented.

Update (March 23, 2017): Under an amended TIF application, Roosevelt Elementary School District is no longer participating; Phoenix Elementary School District #1 has joined the initiative.

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