By Emily Ayscue Hassel and Bryan Hassel, first published by The 74, February 13, 2018
In survey after survey, teachers report dissatisfaction with the professional development they receive. Many aren’t satisfied with their professional learning communities or coaching opportunities. Read More…
By Emily Ayscue Hassel and Bryan Hassel, first published by Education Next, January 17, 2018
What if every student actually could have an excellent teacher?According to a new study released through the CALDER Center, it might be possible. Study authors found that students in classrooms of team teachers led by Opportunity Culture “multi-classroom leaders” showed sizeable, statistically significant academic gains. Read More…
This column first appeared on Education Next.
Great teachers matter—we all know that. But great principals matter nearly as much. We recently profiled three principals who achieved strong student learning growth in their schools in tough circumstances. Forming and leading a team of teacher-leaders proved crucial to all. But then what?
Can great principals take their leadership to the next level and stay connected to teachers and students? Could they reach all schools, not just the fraction they reach today?
We asked just that, and here’s our answer: yes.
In An Excellent Principal for Every School: Transforming Schools into Leadership Machines, we share our vision for how districts and charter networks can reach a lot more students and teachers—potentially all—with great principals, for much higher pay, within regular budgets.
You might recognize this concept, since we’ve floated—and implemented—similar ideas with teachers in Opportunity Culture schools in several states already (including unionized districts). We’ve now extended our thinking to principals.
We envision four essential ingredients to provide far more schools with excellent principals:
- Commitment. Districts commit to reaching all students with great teaching and all teachers with great leadership. Pursuit of these goals drives school staffing and design decisions.
- Multi-Classroom Leaders. Great teachers lead small teams covering one or more grades or subjects, co-planning, co-teaching, and coaching teachers, and they are accountable for student outcomes of the whole team and for teacher development. They earn far more, too.
- Schoolwide Team of Leaders. Principals lead their multi-classroom leaders as a team of leaders to improve instruction and implement a culture of excellence schoolwide.
- Multi-School Leadership. Great principals extend their reach to small numbers of schools as “multi-school leaders” while developing principals, and principals-in-training, on the job. They also earn more.
If every great principal eventually led four schools, on average, as a multi-school leader, then every school could have an excellent, proven principal in charge of student learning, teacher leadership, and the development of other principals on the job.
A nod to recent teacher-leadership efforts: This leadership machine is powered by teacher-leaders. Not just any teacher-leaders, but ones with a lot more authority and a lot more accountability, and pay, than usual.
How? Opportunity Culture models extend the reach of excellent teachers and their teams to more students, for more pay, within budget. A team of teachers and administrators decides how to redo schedules and reallocate money to fund pay supplements permanently, in contrast to temporarily grant-funded programs. Schools provide additional school-day time for planning and collaboration, typically with teacher-leaders, whom we call multi-classroom leaders, leading teams and providing frequent, on-the-job development. Multi-classroom leaders provide frequent, in-depth support to the teachers on their teams—far more than a principal can for 20 to 50 individual teachers. Early outcomes indicate far more high growth and less low growth among students than comparable schools and strong teacher satisfaction.
To complete the leadership machine, principals must lead multi-classroom leaders as a team to drive instructional excellence schoolwide. As teacher-leaders take over responsibility for instructional excellence with the principal, a noninstructional operations manager role can take the place of an assistant principal position in most schools. In addition to focusing noninstructional duties away from principals, the operations manager role does not require the same level of education and certification.
This saves money to pay multi-school leaders substantial supplements. Paid principal-in-training residencies in some schools can also save money and become possible by having neophytes step up from multi-classroom leadership—where they’ve already learned to lead adults—and work under a multi-school leader.
These staffing changes allow multi-school leader (MSL) pay of at least 10 percent more than principals, potentially 20 percent more on average—and far more if experienced, successful MSLs take on a couple more schools than our proposed average of four.
With the right underlying supports, Multi-School Leadership creates a sustainable leadership machine: a larger pipeline of great leaders for schools and teaching teams, developed on the job from the start of their teaching careers, and earning far more than usual, within recurring budgets.
It could also bring more potential leaders into teaching and improve the implementation of curriculum and instructional changes. Imagine [insert your favorite curriculum element or teaching method] with excellent teachers in charge of implementation, supported by excellent principals.
What’s scarcest of the essential ingredients? Commitment. The rest is doable, as early Opportunity Culture schools have demonstrated.
Ultimately, research indicates that better leadership pays off in higher levels of student growth and achievement. For principals, teachers, and students, it’s time to let great principals extend their reach and lead schools that are leadership—and learning—machines.b
TNTP’s new report The Mirage sheds light on the nation’s failure to advance strong professional learning for U.S. teachers. The report includes a call for redesigning schools to extend the reach of great teachers. TNTP President Dan Weisberg’s Ed Week quote on the report is right—to give teachers a real shot at professional learning that works, the nation “ought to be testing whether there are other models of school design, teacher jobs, that have a better chance of getting kids consistently excellent instruction.”
These are the right words, but our nation’s teachers and students need far more than words. Reports are a start. We’ve written quite a few of them ourselves about the need for new school designs that extend excellent teachers’ reach, going back to our 2009 3X for All. TNTP itself called for extending the reach of great teachers in one of its prior reports, The Irreplaceables. Teach Plus, Education Resource Strategies, the National Network of State Teachers of the Year, and others have, too.
Now, however, is the time for action. The consensus has mounted that the one-teacher-one-classroom model is not working well for teachers or students. Yet almost all teachers work in exactly that model, despite report after report calling for something different. It’s time to get out of that swirl of talk and transform schools for the better. As Ben Franklin said, “Well done is better than well said.”
What if all of us, and more, turned talk into action? What if the opportunity of new school designs and teacher roles were available to teachers everywhere?
Fortunately, action is already underway. The teacher voice organization Teach Plus has brought teams of great teachers into struggling schools to lead their transformation. Districts like Denver Public Schools are starting to create meaningful, differential roles for teachers. More than 60 schools in five states and seven public school districts have signed on to Public Impact’s growing Opportunity Culture initiative, now in its third implementation year.
We’re partial to the Opportunity Culture approach, because unlike other efforts, it is financially sustainable—and thus scalable to any school anywhere. In Opportunity Culture schools, successful professional learning is no mirage. Teachers are redesigning their schools’ roles and schedules so that great teachers reach more students, and most teachers work in teams led by excellent teachers. Each team leader takes full responsibility for teacher development and student learning in the team’s subjects and grades. In the 34 schools that implemented an Opportunity Culture last year, teacher-leaders earned an average of $10,000—and as much as $23,000—more for these advanced roles, giving them a clear stake in successfully developing other teachers. They have additional school-day time for planning and co-teaching, coaching, modeling, and collaborating with their teams—providing genuine, on-the-job, consistent development. A team of teachers and administrators at each school decides how to reallocate money to fund pay supplements permanently, in contrast to temporarily grant-funded programs.
As we wrote recently, the early implementers have gotten promising results, including high growth in both reading and math by the second year in schools that used Opportunity Culture models schoolwide. In schools converting more gradually to the new models, the Opportunity Culture classrooms showed far more high growth and far less low growth than students in comparable, non-Opportunity Culture classrooms. In anonymous surveys, teacher satisfaction is high, even among teachers not in advanced roles. Schools have received as many as 30 applicants per position for the advanced roles, and all have been selective. There’s room to improve, but the results point in the right direction. See for yourself on OpportunityCulture.org.
The Mirage is appropriately gloomy on the overall state of professional learning nationwide. Readers need to understand, however, that change is already happening. Charter schools and districts are hopping in the game, but—for now—the districts are leading on staffing innovation at larger scale. They are implementing entirely new approaches in varied contexts—union and non-union, small town and big city, well-funded and not—and often in challenging circumstances, such as superintendent turnover and severe state policy constraints.
We’ve been pleased to have the CEOs of all the organizations we listed above on the national Opportunity Culture Advisory Team. We have partnered with others, such as Education First, to put the models into action. Many other organizations are well-positioned to help schools redesign themselves to extend excellent teachers’ reach in this way, too. If all of these leaders turn to action now, the stream of professional learning already flowing in 60 schools could become a vast river of learning and job opportunity for U.S. teachers—and their students.
This column first appeared on Education Next.
Hear about an Opportunity Culture from those already using it at Opportunity Culture’s Voices on Video page.
By Bryan C. Hassel and Emily Ayscue Hassel
In our companion post, Opportunity Culture Outcomes: The First Two Years, we shared student, teacher, and design outcomes from the first two years of Public Impact’s Opportunity Culture initiative, which so far has affected more than 30 schools, 450 teachers, and 16,000 students.
The outcomes are promising—better student growth, higher pay, strong teacher satisfaction. However, some pioneering districts, schools, and teachers achieved better, faster results than others. Strengths and challenges varied across sites. Learning from these differences fast is crucial to improved outcomes as more schools and districts create their own Opportunity Cultures, extending the reach of excellent teachers and their teams to many more students, for much higher pay, within regular budgets.
These lessons we drew from these early years are based on data we collected and feedback from Opportunity Culture schools and districts, including teachers, principals, and district administrators. Implementation teams from Public Impact or its partners Education First and Education Resource Strategies solicited feedback using “exit slips” after every decision-making meeting with school and district design teams. We conducted interviews with staff and administrators at the school and district level. Implementation teams scheduled regular calls and made site visits eight to 10 times a year, during which we collected feedback and recorded our observations. With that and other data, we created the Opportunity Culture Dashboard, which contains indicators of implementation effectiveness, including student learning outcomes and teacher and staff perceptions from anonymous surveys.
Many of these lessons are no surprise—and yet still a challenge to get right. Some are a challenge only because the people who have power to change them must act with commitment and decisiveness—and the temptations to do otherwise are overwhelming.
Lesson 1: Address Necessary State and District Policy Barriers. Districts and states must identify and address Opportunity Culture (OC) policy barriers before the design process begins, and review annually at midyear in preparation for the next year.
Lesson 2: Establish District Support for Schools’ OC Implementation. District leaders must provide timely technical assistance, tools, decision-making power, and transitional support for small, temporary financial shortfalls for school models within Opportunity Culture Principles.
Lesson 3: Support Strong School Leadership for OC Implementation. Principals need training and support to lead a team of teacher-leaders and other teachers who extend their reach, and they need paid career advancement options that let them remain directly responsible for student outcomes.
Lesson 4: Build and Support Effective Design Teams. Form district and school design teams with clear goals, roles, and decision-making power, staffed with individuals committed to OC Principles; top district leaders must maintain direction and support to implement and scale up the Opportunity Culture designs.
Lesson 5: Create Complete School Design Plans. School designs should include long-term and next-year detail about roles, financial sustainability, technology, schedules, and how teachers will work together.
Lesson 6: Clarify MCL Roles and Build Teaching Team Leadership. Multi-classroom leaders (MCLs)—essential in schools that want to reach all or nearly all students with excellent teachers—need clear roles, advance training, ongoing coaching in leadership and management skills, and protected time to plan and lead.
Lesson 7: Build Schedules that Let Teams Collaborate. Schedule and protect additional in-school time for OC teachers to plan, alone and as a team; review student work; and improve together during the school year.
Lesson 8: Hire Early and Be Selective. Recruit early, advertise widely using multiple methods, make links to Opportunity Culture job openings obvious on the district’s website, and use the materials on OpportunityCulture.org to recruit and be selective among candidates.
Lesson 9: Give Everyone the Right Data to Improve. Interim and annual data should be collected and reported to match OC roles, to help teachers improve during the school year and help principals lead well; consistent interim assessments would help OC teachers.
This post first appeared in Education Next.
Maybe it’s because we’re turning 50 in the coming year and have together been pondering the plight of the poor and their lost human potential since we were 20. But we’re weary of hearing education reformers pretend that just changing policies and management systems—name your favorite—will put an excellent teacher in every classroom. Even though most of us have spilled voluminous ink on those topics.
What if, instead, change started where excellence already lives—in the classrooms and minds of excellent teachers? That is, those teachers who achieve large student learning gains and leaps in higher-order thinking, and who inspire and motivate students and colleagues alike.
What if all it took to launch were a handful of willing superintendents and some committed principals? Ones willing to empower those excellent teachers: to reach far more students, lead and develop teams of colleagues on-the-job, and help their principals lead their schools, for substantially more pay?
What if all “systems” changes were geared to make that possible, at large scale?
From that line of thinking was born Opportunity Culture, an initiative to try this idea: Let school teams with teachers on them redesign jobs and use age-appropriate technology to extend the reach of excellent teachers and their teams to many more students, for more pay, within regular budgets, adding more planning time, and having them take full accountability for the learning of all the students they serve.
Seven schools in two states began implementing these new school models in 2013–14. More than 30 schools in three states implemented last year, and more than 60 schools in five states will be implementing or designing their school models in 2015–16.
The Public Impact team facilitated school decision-making, along with Education First and Education Resource Strategies, and we produced many free materials to help. But the teachers and principals get all the credit for their outcomes. We’ve gathered data on their early results from the first two years, and we report all the data for which comparison groups were possible.
These outcomes are promising for students and teachers, but there is room to improve the support—and, yes, the systems and policies—that affect teachers in these new roles and their principals.
- More than 150 teachers held advanced roles, and more than 300 other teachers were developed on the job by Opportunity Culture (OC) teacher-leaders in 2014–15.
- Teachers typically reached 33 percent to 300 percent more students than average.
- More than 16,000 students were reached using OC models in 2014–15, over 70 percent of them in STEM classrooms.
- Districts launching recruitment by March received applications at a rate of about 30:1 applications per OC position. Those starting later had between 4:1 and 10:1 per position.
- Teacher pay supplements for advanced roles ranged from $3,500 to $23,000 and averaged approximately $10,000.
- All sites but one paid these supplements completely within regular budgets by reallocating funding, with no grants or special funding; all are within regular budgets for 2015–16.
- Average weekly planning minutes ranged from 225 to 450.
- Of the three schools that implemented Opportunity Culture models schoolwide in the first year:
- Two had high growth in both reading and math in the first year.
- The third school had high growth in reading and math by its second year (subject to state verification).
- In schools transitioning gradually over two to three years, significantly more students in OC classrooms made high growth in the second year than in non-OC classrooms in the same and similar schools—by March 2015, 42 percent to 70 percent more made high growth, depending on the comparison group. Fifty percent more students in non-OC classrooms made low (Annualized data not yet available for OC classrooms; first-year data unavailable due to teacher privacy and lack of comparison data.)
- A significant majority of teachers agreed with a wide range of positive statements about the Opportunity Cultures in their schools in an anonymous survey.
These outcomes are promising, particularly because schools with reported student outcomes were very high-poverty.
However, some pioneering districts, schools, and teachers achieved better, faster results than others. Strengths and challenges varied across sites. Learning quickly from these differences is crucial to improved outcomes as more schools and districts create their own Opportunity Cultures.
Technology makes it possible for each of us to do more, learn more and be more connected.
Need to pay your bills and register your kid for swim lessons while locating a recipe for dinner? Jump online. Want to learn more about something you just overheard while in line at the grocery store? Type it into a search engine. Wonder what your former Little League teammates are up to? Check your Facebook newsfeed.
Imagine what we could do for education if we maximized the potential of technology for teachers and students. Technology’s potential seems particularly compelling for rural schools, which struggle to offer an array of learning opportunities, to transport students to a central facility and to get the best combination of teachers from small candidate pools.
Technology in education sounds terrific: It can bring the world to a classroom. It can give students access to courses and resources they might not otherwise get. It can inject engaging fun into the classroom, as students learn through games and create in a digital medium.
Technology seems like a shiny tool that will build a bridge across the achievement gap. But technology’s power, like any tool, depends on how it is used. If a builder buys a new skill saw and wants to get the full value from his investment, he will place it in the hands of his best carpenter and will charge that leader with training the other carpenters to use it effectively. Likewise, efforts to use digital tools in education gain new potential when paired with efforts to give more students access to the best teachers.
Schools in several states are doing just that by developing new staffing models that break out of the traditional one-teacher-per-classroom model. They extend the reach of their top teachers using technology and team leadership. These teacher-leaders help their peers orchestrate in-person and online activities to maximize student learning. They use flexible student groupings and scheduling to meet each student’s needs while coaching teams of teachers toward excellent instruction.
Most rural schools, including districts participating in the Idaho Leads initiative, the Idaho P-TECH network, Khan Academy in Idaho and other efforts, are already forging ahead with integrating technology into their work. But to tap the full potential of technology, students, communities, educators and policymakers will also need to re-envision the traditional paradigm: particularly the notion of education delivered within classrooms of 20 to 30 students led by a single teacher.
In Technology and Rural Education, a paper funded by the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation and developed with the Rural Opportunities Consortium of Idaho, we offer a set of recommendations to overcome challenges and capitalize on the potential of technology to serve students, particularly Idaho’s rural students, including:
We have exciting news today, with potentially big implications for teachers and students: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) announced a scale-up of its use of Opportunity Culture models that extend the reach of excellent teachers and their teams to more students, for more pay, within budget. The Belk Foundation, a local family foundation, announced a rare, three-year commitment to fund the redesign work, after which the models will be financially sustainable.
For far too long, the field has relied on unsustainably funded career paths. “Sustainable” equaled “We’ll apply for another grant.” This has limited opportunities to districts with superior grant-writing abilities, not the many more with committed, capable leaders who truly want to help more children learn and more teachers excel. With sustainable models, CMS—and other districts that follow its lead—can make a long-term promise to current and prospective teachers, rather than snatching back extra pay, and the roles it funds, after a few years.
Our team at Public Impact will partner with Education Resource Strategies to help schools select and adapt models that reallocate funds to pay teachers more for taking responsibility for more students’ learning, directly and by leading teaching teams in fully accountable leadership roles. Together, we will also help school teams, all of which include teachers, increase on-the-job planning and development time, and provide for flexible scheduling and grouping.
In fall 2013, four schools within the Project L.I.F.T. zone of high-need CMS schools began implementing Opportunity Culture models, which we developed in consultation with teachers nationwide from organizations including Teach Plus and Educators 4 Excellence.
Now, CMS school design teams that include teachers and school leaders will integrate the new models into 17 more schools this year, and more schools will join the implementation in each of the two years after that, with almost half of the district’s schools implementing by 2017–18. The Belk Foundation will fund transition costs with a grant of $505,000, one of the foundation’s largest ever.
Excellent teachers—those in the top 20 to 25 percent—are the ones who produce the strong learning growth students need to catch up and pursue advanced work. These teachers, on average, help students make a year and a half worth of learning growth annually. Without excellent teachers consistently, students who start out behind rarely catch up, and students who meet today’s grade-level targets rarely leap ahead to meet rising global standards.
Giving all students access to excellent teachers, and the teams that they lead, could also transform teaching, as we’ve begun to show through our Opportunity Culture pilot schools. The new school models in these schools allow sustainably funded higher pay for all, leadership roles that let great teachers lead teams, time for on-the-job collaboration and development, and enhanced authority and credit when helping more students. Early Opportunity Culture implementers have attracted large numbers of applicants for these new jobs, even in high-poverty schools.
In a new brief we wrote with Christen Holly and Gillian Locke for the Center for American Progress, Giving Every Student Access to Excellent Teachers: A Vision for Focusing Federal Investments in Education, we suggest four ways the federal government can dramatically increase access to excellent teaching and transform the profession: