education policy

How a State Could Achieve Major Gains in Learning, Pay, Economy

For several years, we’ve been asking teachers and districts to imagine: Imagine schools and a profession where all teachers can improve their teaching, be rewarded for getting better, and reach more students with excellent instruction—by creating an Opportunity Culture for teachers and students. Districts are responding: As of spring 2014, four districts nationally are piloting Opportunity Culture models, and one, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, is taking its pilot efforts to scale based on recruiting results and demand from schools.

But what if a whole state reimagined the teaching profession and pursued an Opportunity Culture for all? What benefits might accrue for students, teachers and the state as a whole?

Using North Carolina as an example for analysis, Public Impact ran the numbers—and the results weren’t small.

Opportunity Culture models redesign jobs to extend the reach of excellent teachers to more students, for more pay, within budget—typically in collaborative teams on which all teachers can pursue instructional excellence together and are formally accountable for all of the students they serve. They are designed to transform the traditional teaching environment and provide new career paths for teachers that allow them to advance their careers without leaving the classroom.

If three-fourths of North Carolina’s classrooms were to implement Opportunity Culture models over one generation of students—about 16 years of implementation—we projected, using conservative assumptions, that:

  • Students on average would gain 3.4 more years’ worth of learning than in a traditional school model in the K–12 years.
  • Teachers leading teams would earn up to $848,000 more in a 35-year career, with considerably higher figures possible for large-span teacher-leader roles not included in this analysis.
  • Teachers joining teams to extend their reach could earn approximately an additional $240,000 over their careers.
  • State income tax revenue would be up to $700 million higher in present-value terms over 16 years of implementation; increased corporate and sales tax revenues are not included.
  • State domestic product would increase by $4.6 billion to $7.7 billion in present-value terms over the next 16 years.

And that’s just using current numbers for North Carolina, where pay is near the bottom nationally. Teachers leading teams in states with pay closer to the national average would earn up to $1 million more in a 35-year career. (Public Impact has separately suggested that a 10 percent average base pay increase is also needed for teachers in North Carolina.)

Public Impact’s Op-Ed: Be Bold on Teacher Pay

Public Impact’s co-directors, Emily Ayscue Hassel and Bryan C. Hassel, have a message for North Carolina’s leaders in their op-ed published in The (Raleigh, N.C.) News and Observer: To transform this state, aim higher.

The Hassels’ op-ed, “N.C. must be bold on increasing teacher pay,” calls for “audacious, achievable goals”: Noting the Opportunity Culture work being done in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools to improve teachers’ jobs and pay them more, the Hassels call on North Carolina’s leaders to transform the state by extending that work and focusing on needed priority and policy changes that would create a surge in student learning, grow the state’s economy, and increase teachers’ career earnings.

More coming soon from Public Impact’s Opportunity Culture work: Watch for an announcement on the second N.C. district to join Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in the Opportunity Culture initiative (see more about an Opportunity Culture in other districts here), and watch for a policy brief next week detailing the economic benefits to North Carolina and its teachers discussed in the op-ed.

Watch: How to Get Great Teaching to More Students

How can more students have access to excellent teachers? Increasing class sizes is one way, but we have many other options, Public Impact’s co-director, Bryan C. Hassel, said at Thursday’s “Expanding Access to Great Teachers” discussion at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute–watch it below.

Bryan joined Michael Hansen of the American Institutes for Research, author of “Right-Sizing the Classroom: Making the Most of Great Teachers,” Jean-Claude Brizard, senior advisor at the College Board, teacher and instructional coach Linda Donaldson Guidi, and Michael Petrilli, Fordham executive vice president.

Using Opportunity Culture models, districts are extending great teachers’ reach to more students now, without bigger classes, Bryan noted–and in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, for example, teacher-leaders make $23,000 more than the salary schedule with these models, which give all teachers opportunities for career advancement without having to leave the classroom.

But policymakers need to clear the barriers to extending great teachers’ reach, he said–and rather than focusing on the percentage of excellent teachers a district has, how about asking districts and schools to report the percentage of students who have an excellent teacher in charge of their instruction?

Watch the discussion, and read more here, here and here.

Focus Federal Investments to Give Every Student Access to Excellent Teachers

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:

In the News: Opportunity Culture Appearances

Recent Opportunity Culture news:

  • Focus federal funding on access to excellent teachers: What is one appropriate and effective way for the federal government to catalyze a transformation of America’s public education system? Federal investments could play a pivotal role. In a new brief Public Impact wrote for the Center for American Progress, Giving Every Student Access to Excellent Teachers: A Vision for Focusing Federal Investments in Education, we suggest four policy levers the federal government could use to allow excellent teachers to lead their peers and reach nearly all students by 2025. Read the brief now; more on this next week.
  • Bryan Hassel talks to Students Matter: Read the interview with Public Impact Co-director Bryan C. Hassel on the “Education Innovation” blog series for a brief overview of his Opportunity Culture work.


Could You Give All Students Excellent Teachers–and Pay More?

What if every U.S. student had a new civil right to an excellent teacher, every year, in all core subjects? What if schools also had to pay teachers at least 20 percent more, within budget? Could you design a school that met those demands?

Try it: Use Public Impact’s free Opportunity Culture scenarios to see if you could design a rural or urban, high-poverty school that

  • closes gaps and helps all students leap ahead by letting excellent teachers take responsibility for all students’ learning in core subjects;
  • pays all teachers more, and excellent teachers who lead teams far more, within budget
  • gives teachers frequent school-day time for planning, team collaboration, and on-the-job development; and
  • does not reduce student learning time.

It’s a tall order, but new school models, now being implemented in pilot schools in the U.S., can make what we call an Opportunity Culture a reality.

Designed to help district and school design teams rethink the one-teacher-one-classroom mode, these scenarios ask planners to assume the role of a school principal. The principal must develop a plan to give all students access to excellent teachers and their teams with the school’s current staff, without any new funding. The principal must make the school attractive by both paying teachers more and offering them a great place to work—full of teaching career advancement opportunities and job-embedded development led by teacher-leaders.

In the News: Opportunity Culture Appearances

Recent Opportunity Culture appearances:

  • Getting Smart listed Public Impact and our Opportunity Culture initiative in its first annual “smart list” of great policy and advocacy organizations making a difference. The 40 groups on the list “put students first, set the path, and lead the conversation.”
  • EdSurge ran a featured article on our latest case study, on Rocketship Education, discussing how Rocketship’s modifications to its blended-learning model “put teachers in the driver’s seat.” This is the fourth in a series of Opportunity Culture case studies Public Impact published this summer, to great response and high demand; more case studies will be coming this fall and beyond.

How City-Based Groups Can Support Ed Tech Quality

In A Better Blend, we explained how schools can boost student outcomes from digital learning by combining it with staffing models that allow excellent teachers to both reach more students and help good teachers excel. Digital learning holds great promise—but only if we combine its power to personalize learning with the power of excellent teaching.

What else could increase the chances of high-quality technology use in our schools? Public Impact has written two reports out this week for CEE-Trust (the Cities for Education Entrepreneurship Trust) showing how city-based funders and reformers can help, by catalyzing and scaling up high-quality blended learning in their cities.

A Better Blend: Digital Instruction + Great Teaching

coffeeBlended learning holds unique promise to improve student outcomes dramatically. Schools will not realize this promise with technology improvements alone, though, or with technology and today’s typical teaching roles. In a new Public Impact policy brief, A Better Blend: A Vision for Boosting Student Outcomes with Digital Learning, which we co-authored with Joe Ableidinger and Jiye Grace Han, we explain how schools can use blended learning to drive improvements in the quality of digital instruction, transform teaching into a highly paid, opportunity-rich career that extends the reach of excellent teachers to all students and teaching peers, and improve student learning at large scale. We call this a “better blend”: combining high-quality digital learning and excellent teaching.