Innovative Staffing

Use innovative staffing to address teacher shortages and boost learning

Staffing shortages have plagued some schools for decades. How can innovative staffing designs help—and boost learning? Innovative staffing means thinking differently about instructional roles and available funding to improve academics, creating new career options for teachers and addressing persistent teaching vacancies.

According to one report, the share of schools that tried to fill a vacancy but couldn’t tripled from 2011 to 2016, from 3.1 percent to 9.4 percent, and the share of schools that reported that it was “very difficult” to fill a vacancy nearly doubled, from 19.7 percent to 36.2 percent. Those vacancies directly harm students’ learning.

Our Sustainable Solution

Schools can redesign staffing structures to give every student a great education, even when a school can’t find as many teachers to hire as it wants.  This isn’t an overnight solution, but research shows it boosts student learning far more than merely adding on to existing structures. This requires a school team to refocus on ensuring instructional excellence through what they can control—the instructional roles that adults in the school play. It may also require a shift away from prioritizing smaller student-teacher ratios, which can keep schools scrambling to fill teacher vacancies with substitutes.

Opportunity Culture® initiative is our approach to such redesign, helping schools revisit their staffing structures with vacancies in mind. By thinking differently about instructional roles and available funding, Opportunity Culture® models help schools reach more students with great teaching, and research shows these structures get learning results.

The redesign work creates career ladders, collaboration, and support systems for teachers that don’t exist in the standard one-teacher-one-classroom model. It addresses immediate student learning needs while offering a new professional trajectory for teachers. Each school creates a design team that includes teachers to make decisions about what roles, staffing, and scheduling will suit its school’s needs.

The initiative has been recognized by policymakers and education advocates as an effective strategy to address staffing shortages and Covid recovery. Learn more here.