To attract and retain great teachers, Edgecombe County Public Schools, located along the Tar River in flood-ravaged North Carolina, has joined the national Opportunity Culture initiative to extend the reach of excellent teachers and their teams to more students, for more pay, within recurring budgets. The initiative now includes 17 sites in seven states, including […]
Curious about the impact of an Opportunity Culture? We’ve just updated our dashboard, as we will every year, with the latest statistics. Such as: 110+ schools at 17 sites in 7 states—and growing 34,000+ students taught by teachers extending their reach—a 50 percent increase from 2015–16 1,250+ teachers with advanced roles or on-the-job development—a 50 […]
“I know Opportunity Culture is one of the best strategies we can offer.” –Maricopa County Superintendent of Schools Don Covey Using a $60 million federal grant, Arizona’s Maricopa County Education Service Agency (MCESA) will help at least five small and medium-size Phoenix-area districts and one charter network design and implement Opportunity Culture school models that […]
State and district leaders, here’s your chance: Under ESSA (the 2016 Every Student Succeeds Act), you can use your new funding flexibility to take a new approach that focuses on excellence for teachers and students. In a new brief and one-page executive summary, we explain four opportunities to achieve a culture of excellence under ESSA, […]
How can new teachers and principals start their jobs prepared for educational excellence, and how can the schools that hire them know they’re ready to excel? In today’s preparation systems, no one is fully getting what they need—not aspiring teachers and principals, not schools, not students. There is a better way. In Opportunity Culture schools, […]
Georgia’s Fulton County Schools district has joined the national Opportunity Culture initiative to extend the reach of excellent teachers and their teams to more students, for more pay, within recurring budgets. In 2015–16, Benjamin E. Banneker High School and Woodland Middle School, on the south side of Atlanta, are the district’s first to design Opportunity Culture plans for 2016–17 implementation. Both schools are part of Fulton County’s achievement zone, created in 2015 to focus on the traditionally struggling high school and its feeder schools. The zone aims to rapidly improve academic outcomes for its students.
Fulton County Schools, which sandwiches the separate school district for the city of Atlanta, includes the cities of Alpharetta, Roswell, and Sandy Springs on Atlanta’s north side, and Chattahoochee Hills, College Park, and Union City to the south. The district serves more than 95,000 students.
In Opportunity Culture models, a team of teachers and administrators at each school chooses among models that use job redesign and age-appropriate technology to reach more students with personalized, high-standards instruction—one hallmark of great teachers. School teams redesign schedules to provide additional school-day time for teacher planning and collaboration, typically with teacher-leaders leading teams and providing frequent, on-the-job development.
The school design teams reallocate school budgets to fund pay supplements permanently, in contrast to temporarily grant-funded programs. Schools in eight districts in six states nationwide are designing or implementing Opportunity Culture models. Pay supplements are as high as 50 percent, and an average of about 20 percent, of average teacher salaries.
“To dramatically change outcomes for students, we need to put our most effective teachers in front of the students who need them the most, and build opportunities for our most effective teachers to be leaders among their peers,” said Dara Jones-Wilson, executive director of the South Learning Community, in which the schools are located. “Teachers want leaders and coaches who are in the trenches with them and understand this work firsthand.”
The district serves more than 95,000 students in 57 elementary schools, 19 middle schools, 17 high schools, and eight charter organizations. In 2015–16, 45 percent of its students were eligible for free or reduced-price lunch; in 2014–15, 43 percent identified as black/African-American, 29 percent white, 15 percent Hispanic, and 10 percent Asian.
“Schools often struggle with leveraging talent in a way that leads to maximum impact for students. We believe that the mechanism for making this happen for our most proven and effective teachers is Opportunity Culture,” Banneker Principal Duke Bradley III said.
“Too often we fail to grow our teacher-leaders, and our students and staff never fully benefit from their full potential. The Opportunity Culture initiative not only allows us to retain these quality educators but extend their reach to realize an even greater student impact,” Woodland Principal Jason Stamper said. “This initiative also excites me because of the support and modeling that these teacher-leaders will be able to provide for our staff, thus making us all more effective. The end result: Our students win!”
Public Impact, which designed the Opportunity Culture model prototypes, is assisting Fulton County in planning its school designs and implementation, supported by a grant from the Dobbs Foundation, based in Atlanta. The grant supports only the transition work; higher teacher pay will be sustainably funded within existing school budgets.
To hear from Opportunity Culture educators about their experiences so far, see columns they’ve written for Real Clear Education, with accompanying videos, here.
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
If you’re interested in: –Spreading your excellent teaching to many more students –Leading a team of teaching peers toward the great outcomes you’ve gotten with your students by: collaborating with them co-teaching coaching co-planning giving (and getting) consistent, on-the-job, genuine professional development and support –Taking responsibility for the learning of all students in the team […]
As the Opportunity Culture initiative was beginning, three principals signed on to lead low-performing, high-poverty schools in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg and Metropolitan Nashville districts. The odds were stacked against them and their students—one school, for example, has student transiency rates of 70 percent and higher. But within a few short years, their schools all showed very […]
What makes a sustainable teacher career path that attracts and retains great teachers? In a new report, the National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY) looks at eight school district and charter career advancement initiatives for lessons and challenges, including Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s Project L.I.F.T. and its use of Opportunity Culture models. The report comes […]