school budgets

Rethinking School Staffing

From AEI, October 8, 2020, by Nat Malkus

As schools confront massive budget shortfalls in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, it is critical that they examine how they might use existing funding more efficiently. On this episode of The Report Card, Nat Malkus talks with Bryan Hassel about how districts might rethink their staffing models in a way that will increase students’ access to excellent teachers and create opportunities for advancement within the teaching profession, all without spending more money. Byran is the co-president of Public Impact and a contributor to the newly released volume, Getting the Most Bang for the Education Buck. Listen to the podcast…

New Models Combine Teacher Leadership, Digital Learning

Teachers using blended learning need guidance to help students achieve high-growth learning consistently. Teacher-leaders and their teams need time to collaborate and learn together on the job. Students need access to personalized instruction that catalyzes consistently high growth and expands their thinking.TT plus MCL

How can schools achieve all of these goals? Combine blended learning with teacher leadership. Two new models from Public Impact explain how elementary and secondary schools can combine Time-Technology Swaps and Multi-Classroom Leadership— while paying teachers far more, sustainably.

In middle and high schools, students in these models rotate on a fixed schedule between a learning lab and regular classrooms—a “Time-Technology Swap.” In the lab, students learn online, using digital instruction, and offline, pursuing skills practice and project work. This lab time, supervised by paraprofessionals, frees teachers’ time. That time allows teachers, working on teams led by multi-classroom leaders, to teach additional classes, and to plan and collaborate with their teammates on the job. Class time with the teacher is focused primarily on engaging portions of instruction that are best taught in person and in small-group follow-up. Lab work is chosen and directed by the multi-classroom leaders and their team teachers, and is personalized to each student. In some high schools, students do assigned digital learning and project work at home during part of the school day, rather than in a learning support digital 2

In elementary schools, students similarly engage in personalized digital learning and/or offline skills practice and project work for a limited, age-appropriate portion of the day at school. This frees multi-classroom leaders and team teachers to reach more students without increasing instructional group sizes, and to plan and improve together based on data about student progress each week.

Why should schools combine blended learning and teacher-led teams?

  • All students reached with excellence: 100 percent of students can have one or more excellent teachers responsible for their learning in each affected subject, without larger classes.
  • On-the-job learning and support for teachers: Teachers can gain and consolidate planning and collaboration time, and teachers can get more support and on-the-job development from multi-classroom leaders.
  • Teachers earn more—often much more: Pay increases of up to 67 percent are possible for multi-classroom leaders, while pay for blended-learning teachers on the team can increase up to about 25 percent, within regular budgets, not temporary grants.

Many Opportunity Culture schools are already combining Time Swaps and Multi-Classroom Leadership. These new models offer a glimpse at what they are doing, and provide a starting point for additional schools that want to reach all students with excellent teaching and provide all teachers with career advancement opportunities and on-the-job development and support—creating an Opportunity Culture for all.

Big Changes in Big Spring

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.

Indianapolis First to Put Opportunity Culture® Into Contract

The Indianapolis school board and teachers union recently became the first in the country to include Opportunity Culture roles in their new contract, offering pay supplements of up to $18,300—35 percent of the district’s average salary. That comes on top of a major base pay raise—the first in five years—for teachers across the board.

Those pay decisions mean that in 2016–17, for example, a 16-year teacher will be able to earn $77,700 by taking on the highest-paid Opportunity Culture role, leading a team of four to six teachers. (Take note: This pay in Indianapolis is equivalent to pay of more than $110,000 in Washington, D.C. or more than $175,000 in Manhattan.)

The changes are part of an ambitious strategic plan for Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS), under the leadership of Superintendent Lewis Ferebee. The contract was ratified by 93 percent of the union members and approved in a 6–0 vote of the IPS Board of School Commissioners.

The Opportunity Culture initiative, created by Public Impact, includes seven districts in five states in 2015–16. Opportunity Culture models extend the reach of excellent teachers and their teams to more students, for more pay, within budget. Schools provide additional school-day time for planning and collaboration, often with teacher-leaders leading teams and providing frequent, on-the-job development.

A team of teachers and administrators at each school decides how to redo schedules and reallocate money to fund pay supplements permanently, in contrast to temporarily grant-funded programs. Opportunity Culture schools in IPS are expected to reallocate funds primarily from vacant positions to pay for the supplements.

The Indianapolis Education Association voted to include multiple Opportunity Culture roles in the contract, with the highest pay for multi-classroom leaders, who continue to teach while leading a team. These “MCLs” coach, co-teach, co-plan and collaborate with their team teachers, while taking accountability for the learning outcomes of all the students the team serves. In IPS, an MCL who leads a team of one teacher and a paraprofessional known as a reach associate will earn a $6,800 stipend. MCLs who lead a team of two to three teachers and a reach associate will earn an $11,400 stipend. Those leading a team of four to six teachers and two reach associates will earn $18,300 stipends.

All teachers teaching on an MCL-led team will earn $1,300 supplements, if the school can afford to do this for each team in the school.

In contrast, of the 120 large-district contracts in the National Council on Teacher Quality’s national database, most stipends are less than $3,000, and the biggest specified leadership stipend (for department chairs in Wichita, Kansas) is $8,614. The Indianapolis Public Schools’ maximum Opportunity Culture supplement of $18,300 is more than double that amount.

The contract also includes $6,800 supplements for “expanded-impact teachers,” great teachers who extend their reach to at least 33 percent more students with paraprofessional support, but who do not lead teams. These teachers may use enhanced digital instruction, specialization at the elementary level, and other models that include enhanced paraprofessional support.

“We are delighted and impressed by the collaborative environment and genuine commitment we see on the part of both the district and the union in Indianapolis,” said former teacher and Public Impact senior vice president Lucy Steiner, who is leading Public Impact’s assistance to IPS schools with these roles. “We will be working with the district and schools to ensure that teachers have the support they need to be effective in these new roles.” The Joyce Foundation is providing partial support to launch Public Impact’s work with IPS.

IPS is the second collective bargaining district in which the local teachers union has supported Opportunity Culture roles, but the first to include the roles in its contract for all teachers.

Read more:

Opportunity Culture® Lessons from the First Two Years

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 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.

Op-Ed: N.C. Must Invest to Magnify Great Teachers’ Impact

“North Carolina will never make the educational strides it needs until the best educators have far greater impact for a lot more pay,” say Public Impact’s co-directors in an op-ed in Saturday’s Raleigh News and Observer.

Noting that the state’s General Assembly “rightfully added 6 percent focused primarily on early-career teachers’ base pay,” Bryan C. Hassel and Emily Ayscue Hassel point out that other states also increased salaries for teachers, and likely will again. So, they say, state leaders must complete the 10 percent average raise, and then some, just to stay on par in the region.

“Meanwhile, the pay gap with neighboring states yawns wider for experienced teachers,” the Hassels write. “Most importantly, base pay bumps for early-career teachers don’t empower or entice excellent teachers, many of whom are veterans, to lead from the classroom – reaching more students and helping peers excel.”

But North Carolina could change that, and lead the region in the process. They write:

Opportunity Culture® in the News: Real Clear Education, NPR

Looking for an overview of an Opportunity Culture®, and an example of multi-classroom leadership in action? These could get you started: Today, Public Impact® co-directors Bryan and Emily Hassel kick off a monthly series of posts on Real Clear Education by Opportunity...

What Makes an Opportunity Culture® Different?

When Public Impact launched the Opportunity Culture initiative, we were clear on the goal: reach as many students as possible with excellent teaching. As our team worked with teachers and principals, we committed to a second goal: provide outstanding, lasting, well-paid career opportunities to educators.

As researchers, we saw many pay and career path programs fall short of those goals–and still see too many today. Too often, pay programs fail to provide opportunities for teachers to learn from outstanding peers and others at work–to collaborate, plan with, and support one another. Too many new roles are funded with temporary or politically tenuous money. And very few pay or career path programs increase the number of students who have excellent teachers formally responsible for their learning.

So we embodied our goals and the guidance to achieve them in the five Opportunity Culture Principles. Those principles set Opportunity Culture schools apart from the other efforts.

Here’s a primer on what makes an Opportunity Culture different:

Opportunity Culture® in the News: How to Transform Education

How can state and district leaders transform education by extending the reach of great teachers and their teams to many more students, for more pay, within budget? Read our latest thoughts this week:

  • On, Emily Ayscue Hassel and Bryan C. Hassel exhort North Carolina’s leaders to focus on the destination–giving all students access to excellent teaching, consistently–and set the guideposts districts need to get there. “State leaders can transform North Carolina by funding a diverse set of districts to design financially sustainable, scalable advanced pay systems that reward excellent teachers for reach and leadership,” write the Hassels, co-directors of Public Impact and founders of the Opportunity Culture initiative.
  • On, the Hassels write about the challenges–and a possible solution–to the need for great school leaders at a time when schools must achieve deeper learning, not just learning basic skills. They call for a new model–one that combines Multi-Classroom Leadership with multi-school leadership.
  • And highlights our video about the Opportunity Culture choices of Ranson IB Middle and Ashley Park PreK-8 in Charlotte.

Coming Monday: All about our latest Opportunity Culture video!