Analysis: Mentors, Team Teaching, 7-Week Class Cycles 12 Months a Year — Some School Innovations in Staffing and Scheduling During COVID-19

From The 74, March 10, 2021, by Lynn Olson

An Arkansas school district has one teacher leading instruction for several classes while others support children in small groups. A suburban Cleveland elementary school teamed up teachers and restructured its school day to expand staff planning time. A St. Louis charter school is making sure every educator also serves as an education navigator or coach for a pod of 10 students.

The coronavirus crisis is prompting schools and districts to embrace innovative staffing and scheduling strategies that are extending the reach of great teachers, leveraging co-teaching models in new ways and providing more support for students and educators.

A recent survey by the RAND Corp. found that 91 percent of U.S. school districts and charter management organizations anticipated revising work roles and job duties for teachers or other staff during the pandemic. About one in five said they have already adopted, plan to adopt or are considering adopting virtual schools even after the current crisis ends, in response to parent and student demands.

The question is what it will take to sustain and expand these innovative staffing models after the pandemic. In a recent report for FutureEd, we explored a range of new staffing strategies as well as barriers to innovation, such as rigid labor contracts and the reluctance to break from traditional practices.

Districts are also expanding co-teaching models and teaching teams to enable more small-group and individual support for students and distribute responsibilities based on teacher strengths. One model is Opportunity Culture, an initiative of Public Impact. More than 360 schools across 10 states belong to the network.

Multi-classroom leaders teach part time and lead small, collaborative teams of two to eight teachers, paraprofessionals and teachers in training in the same grade or subject. During the pandemic, Public Impact has used this approach to prioritize face-to-face video time within small groups, which helps motivate students and connect emotionally with teachers.

“COVID has highlighted the level of guidance and support teachers need to help all students learn,” says Bryan Hassel, co-president of Public Impact. “That need pre-dated COVID and will outlast it.”

Gentry Public Schools in Arkansas assigned some of its elementary school educators to multi-classroom teams last March, just as physical buildings closed. The district turned to the multi-classroom leaders, who receive extra pay, to identify priority standards and content for each grade, help with school reopening plans this past fall and serve as liaisons between the administration and the teaching staff. Read more…

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