TN SCORE Case Studies Highlight Strong Results for Four Districts Using Opportunity Culture Models

by | May 9, 2024

“Despite the state’s recent investment in salaries and new pathways into the [teaching] profession, these strategies in isolation, while important, are asking Tennessee’s current students to ‘play the long game.’

“While Tennessee’s most recent initiatives are nation-leading in terms of working to attract new talent, Tennessee has an urgent need, and the opportunity, to respond to its teacher pipeline challenges more comprehensively.”

In a report out today, Tennessee SCORE highlights how four diverse U.S. districts using Opportunity Culture® models have responded to that urgent need. Strategic School Staffing: Tennessee’s Opportunity to Sustain and Elevate Great Teaching shows how the districts used these models to address teacher shortages, their need for teacher support, and their need for better student learning outcomes.

Watch a webinar recording featuring the superintendent and assistant superintendent of two of the highlighted districts

According to the report, here are some of the outcomes for each district:

Since 2020, Hamilton County (Tennessee) Schools, which has gone from three to 14 implementing schools, has seen a marked difference in teacher retention, with just one educator in the Multi-Classroom Leader™ role leaving the district, and recruitment success for the role. Focusing on teacher support, the district is working to create a data system to better track the effect of coaching on teachers.

In 2018, the Clarksville-Montgomery County (Tennessee) School System aimed to create a model for teacher recruitment and preparation, with a focus on diverse candidates, using teacher residencies. The district used the Multi-Classroom Leader™ role at the elementary level to create teaching team leaders who also guide one or two residents, and created a separate role for middle school teachers to serve as mentors for two residents, who work with their mentor for part of the day and serve as educational assistants for the other part. Now, the district has over 50 teachers in those leadership roles, which “appears to be effective for supporting teacher residents with their coursework [and] has had the added benefit — when roles are safeguarded for resident support and coaching — of alleviating teacher coaching caseloads for principals,” the report says. This year, 143 former residents are working as full-time teachers, and 157 people have applied for the 2024–25 residency cohort. Of their current cohort of 110 residents, 33 percent are staff of color — compared to 19 percent in the district overall.

In 2019, Ector County (Texas) Independent School District started the year with 350 teacher vacancies, which went unfilled for the entire year. Additionally, district leaders recognized that to avoid further vacancies, schools were keeping educators on staff who were not improving student outcomes. The new superintendent, Scott Muri, brought his previous experiences with Opportunity Culture® models to the district, which began the 2023–24 school year with just 36 vacancies. The district has gone from an initial 10 schools using these models to an expected 30 next year. Because the district now has teachers consistently making over $100,000, “those educators do not want to leave the district or the classroom to move into administrator roles,” the report says. Researchers at Texas Tech University have found that teachers in schools with the Multi-Classroom Leader™ (MCL™) role are outperforming their peers in district schools without these roles, achieving higher student growth and proficiency. Additionally, “while not all educators want the MCL™ role, many do — and schools want to hire more of them. For teachers who do not want that role, the district is seeing a growing desire to be on an MCL™ team for the kind of coaching they would experience,” the report says.

In 2016-17, only six of 14 schools that make up Edgecombe County (N.C.) Public Schools met or exceeded student learning growth expectations — a number that doubled by 2018-19 after schools in their feeder patterns began using Opportunity Culture® roles. Schools now open fully staffed, and those in MCL® roles do not want to leave; only one is no longer in the role, and that was because she took a district-level position. “The new roles are also making an impact on teacher experiences more broadly,” the report says, “with survey results consistently including comments like, ‘I do not know what I would do without our Multi-Classroom Leader.™’”

The report closes with guiding principles for districts considering strategic staffing, which track with advice Public Impact® provides, including the importance of involving all district departments, assessing district readiness for design and implementation, staying true to principles on protected time for teaching teams and their leaders, adhering to clear selection criteria for advanced roles, and providing targeted, effective support and professional learning for these roles.

Read the full report here.

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