Federal Policy for Opportunity Anew

by | March 11, 2021

By Public Impact®, March 11, 2021

In the wake of Covid-19, the U.S. pre-K–12 education system needs more than a refresh. We need to think anew.

In a new Public Impact® brief, we recommend the means through federal policy to bring critical, effective instructional and emotional supports to millions of teachers and their students—for a price tag the country can not only afford, but sustain long-term.

Read Opportunity Anew: How Excellent Educators Can Lift Up Their Colleagues, Students, and the Nation in the Wake of Covid-19 if you want to:

  • Make high-growth learning the “new average”
  • Help underserved students excel—fast
  • Save teachers time
  • Pay student teachers well
  • Provide tutoring permanently
  • Restore joy and hope in schools
  • Pay everyone more—within budget

We base our recommendations on lessons learned through our national Opportunity Culture® initiative, in dozens of districts, with thousands of educators, for nearly 85,000 students this year alone.

Though other improvements are certainly warranted, our recommendations:

  • Are high-impact and helpful for all students—but focused on those most in need
  • Are sustainable for the long term
  • Help address the looming teacher shortage
  • Put more power, more time, more support—and more pay—into the hands of classroom teachers

We recommend that federal policymakers do the following:

#1. Scale Up Multi-Classroom & Multi-School Leadership

Use existing and new federal funding to support scale of paid multi-classroom and multi-school leader teams that include teaching and paraprofessional roles.

Potential benefits include significantly increased student and schoolwide learning growth, time for deep teacher collaboration, and the opportunity to increase student access to teachers of color.

This requires mobilizing existing funding streams to support the transition to these teams, and creating a new, competitive opportunity to fund technical assistance for districts and schools to scale up sustainably paid teams that reach far more students with excellent teaching and learning.

#2: Pay Teacher Residents, within Regular Budgets

Fund support for districts and degree programs to design teacher residencies, and fund incentives for educator preparation programs to create paid pathways to teaching through paraprofessional roles and other tutoring positions that are on multi-classroom leader teams. Principal residents, likewise, can learn on the job from multi-school leaders while earning full pay.

Potential benefits include better development for aspiring educators, pay and benefits for residents, sustainable school budgets, and reduced financial barriers for aspiring educators—helping to diversify the teacher pipeline racially and socioeconomically.

#3: Infuse Schools with Tutoring, Permanently

Fund infusion of tutors to help students catch up from the effects of Covid-19 and prior longstanding barriers. Place more tutors in schools with a higher percentage of economically disadvantaged students. In addition to funding tutors employed by schools, fund community organizations that provide tutoring, in-person and online. Make some school-based tutoring roles permanent by scaling up multi-classroom leader teams that have paraprofessional roles and residents who provide tutoring.

Potential benefits include more help for students from paraprofessional tutors—who research shows get big learning results; stronger direction and guidance for tutors from multi-classroom leaders, to better target their assistance to boost learning; and financial sustainability for long-term tutoring through MCL teams.

#4: Surround Students with Mental Health Support 

In addition to encouraging universal social-emotional instruction, temporarily fund extra counselors—both certified and paraprofessional interventionists/mentors—to support individual students during pandemic recovery. Provide guidance to certified, school-based counselors with master’s degrees to help them triage referrals from teachers and MCL teams and coordinate others who can provide extra empathetic listening and emotional support for students—temporary school-based tutors, and community organization staff, among others.

Potential benefits include improved GPAs through school-based mental health services that are much needed now, and with more attention to individual student needs.

#5: Support Development of a High-Quality Lesson Bank 

To meet diverse state needs, organize a national bank of lessons that are high-standards and rigor-aligned, differentiation-ready, culturally relevant, research-backed, and edit-ready.

Potential benefits include increased learning, time saved for teachers to focus on practicing lessons and engaging students, and help for schools to provide curriculum that prepares students for jobs available in the economy.

#6: Prioritize Higher Base Pay

Commit to spending 50% of new federal funds to raise base pay of classroom teachers.

Potential benefits include the shifting of average base pay to $100,000 or more, within budget, by restoring spending on classroom teacher pay to its historic proportion of overall spending. As more schools use teams led by multi-classroom leaders who have a strong track record, far more teachers will have the support needed to help them achieve high-growth learning, giving higher pay broad political appeal and lessening teacher shortages.

Educators and students need proven solutions that can bring them hope, joy, and educational success. The way is clear; we call on our leaders to provide the will to bring opportunity anew to our country’s schools.

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