What could you do in an Opportunity Culture? In a new video, teachers in Opportunity Culture schools tell how their roles let them: —Reach more students with great teaching —Lead other teachers without leaving teaching—“the best of both worlds” —Give and get support—“the best part of an Opportunity Culture” —Personalize learning for more students —Help […]
22,000+ students reached by Opportunity Culture teachers, more than 800 teachers in advanced or team roles, $2 million in higher pay in one year alone, and more high growth and less low growth than other schools: These are just a few results from the schools in districts launching an Opportunity Culture. Public Impact’s expanded, interactive […]
“ ‘One-teacher-one-classroom’ is a phrase you hear a lot in education these days: For the past 11 years, that described me. I taught on my own in self-contained third- and fifth-grade classrooms, and I loved my job. But I had enough leadership opportunities, such as mentoring, working with student teachers, and leading professional development, to […]
District leaders love the thought of “teacher leadership” that might attract and retain teachers—especially great ones—and close student learning gaps at a time of rising teacher vacancies.
But too often, teacher-leader roles fail to produce the full impact district leaders intend. They rarely dramatically improve student learning or teacher effectiveness.
What are the usual pitfalls? How can districts avoid them?
The Whole Package: 12 Factors of High-Impact Teacher-Leader Roles, a two-page brief from Public Impact, offers a quick list of the pitfalls, and a chart of the 12 essential factors for creating outstanding teacher-leader roles.
Low-impact teacher-leader roles are a distraction from what great teachers really crave: helping their peers and more students succeed. Defining and organizing high-impact teacher-leader roles can allow great teachers to have a far greater effect on vastly more students and teaching peers.
DO design teacher-leader roles with these 12 factors in mind, involving teachers in the design decisions:
• Selectivity: make advanced roles selective
• Preparation: train teacher-leaders for their roles
• Greater Reach: use roles to give more students access to great teachers, not fewer
• Continued Teaching: let teacher-leaders keep teaching students part time
• Time to Lead—and Learn: give teacher-leaders time to plan and collaborate
• Development Opportunities: let teachers in the same role help one another improve
• Accountability: make teacher-leaders formally responsible for their students and teams
• Formal Authority: give teacher-leaders formal authority to spread their practices
• Higher Pay: pay supplements of at least 10%– 50% of average pay
• Funding Stability: fund higher pay with recurring budgets, not grants or tenuous line items
• Funding Scalability: for big scale, fund extra pay with stable, state-level funds
• Prevalence: ensure that each school has many advanced roles, not just a few
DON’T stumble over pitfalls with plans that have these unfortunate qualities:
What can a rural, 4,000-student district do to attract and retain teachers, and support many brand-new teachers? In “Reconsidering the Traditional Model: Big Spring ISD Works to Build Teacher Career Pathways,” Cindy Clegg writes in the Texas Lone Star about how and why the Big Spring school district is creating an Opportunity Culture.
A publication of the Texas Association of School Boards, the Texas Lone Star takes an in-depth look at the multi-classroom model being used in combination with paraprofessional support to extend the reach of great teachers to many more students and teachers, within regular budgets–from choosing the model to carefully selecting the multi-classroom leaders–who lead a team, coaching, co-planning, and supporting the team, while continuing to teach themselves.
Texas has created a statewide initiative to introduce Opportunity Culture to interested districts. “We are trying to build statewide capacity for school improvement,” says Mark Baxter, director of school improvement and support for the Texas Education Agency.
Big Spring is starting with six multi-classroom leaders (MCLs) at three campuses, who each earn a $10,000 supplement, funded through teacher vacancies and larger classes, which have increased paraprofessional support. Although Opportunity Culture school redesign models do not require larger classes, Big Spring chose to go from 22 to 30 students because, says School Improvement Director Heidi Wagner, “Would you rather have 30 kids in front of one excellent teacher or 22 in front of a mediocre teacher?”
Read the full article here.
Real Clear Education, October 15, 2015, by Maggie Vadala, Multi-Classroom Leader
“So while we were sharing our students’ sometimes dismal data, a far-from-comfortable experience for teachers used to working alone, I had to simultaneously build trust.” Initially, Multi-Classroom Leader Maggie Vadala was met with distrust from her team teachers, but using student data, she demonstrated how she was there to support them and improve their teaching, not blame them.
Real Clear Education, September 15, 2015, by Romain Bertrand, Multi-Classroom Leader
“I was not ready to leave a profession I loved, even though I needed the money and wanted the respect.” Many teachers are forced to choose between their profession and financial stability, but Romain Bertrand was able to get both by becoming a multi-classroom leader—one piece of the solution to the profession’s struggle to attract and retain great teachers.
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.
In an Opportunity Culture, districts and schools offer new roles that extend the reach of excellent teachers and their teams to more students, for more pay, within recurring budgets and without forcing class-size increases. The new roles put districts in a much stronger position to hire great teachers—but only if they recruit and select well.
We’ve posted two new toolkits to make that work easier, walking human resources officers and principals through the steps to great hiring, informed by the experiences of early Opportunity Culture districts. These tools are useful for any district hiring teacher-leaders, team teachers, blended-learning teachers, elementary subject specialists, and advanced paraprofessional support—not just Opportunity Culture positions.
The Recruitment Toolkit, downloadable as a PDF, walks districts and schools through the major steps of a successful recruiting effort. It explains why districts that rely on passive strategies—expecting candidates to find out about available positions and apply—will not get the recruitment results they want.
The toolkit addresses key details, such as the timing of recruitment, which ideally begins each year no later than March, to attract a large pool of excellent candidates and capture their interest before they commit to other jobs. Strong recruitment enables districts to attract great candidates regionally, even nationally, who could be a perfect fit for Opportunity Culture or similar roles—including those not actively seeking a new job.
Once schools and districts have a pool of great candidates, what next?
The Teacher and Staff Selection Toolkit provides a four-step guide to help districts and schools select teachers and staff members from competitive talent pools. Districts that have created an Opportunity Culture have seen a surge of applications, even in high-poverty schools. This toolkit helps leaders adapt to a higher volume of applications and the opportunity that volume offers to become very selective in hiring.
The selection kit helps leaders screen and prioritize candidates for these new roles, which require new behaviors and skills beyond those needed in a one-teacher-one-classroom setting. Each step includes a set of considerations, action steps, and links to relevant tools and resources.