How can schools redesign jobs and use technology to reach more students with excellent teachers? And how can they offer teachers more pay, within budget? Public Impact’s Opportunity Culture project aims to answer both questions. As districts and schools around the country think about extending the reach of excellent teachers, they want real-life examples to show them how to tackle each of these challenges.
In a new case study, we profile Anna Lavely of Kansas, who is participating in a two-year fellowship aimed at developing the leadership of already-excellent teachers. Her story provides one example of how schools can reach more students with great teachers—and of how many programs to increase teachers’ impact still fall short on paying teachers their due, sustainably.
Laveley and other Leading Educators fellows are spread out over 65 schools in Kansas City and New Orleans. Each of the fellows leads a team of teachers to meet the fellow’s standards of excellence; teaches students; and facilitates a teaching team’s collaboration and planning. After intensive training and visits to schools with a record of closing the achievement gap, fellows create yearlong projects that focus on leading other teachers and raising student achievement.
At Edwardsville Elementary near Kansas City, Lavely serves as the chair of her teaching team. The team, which includes two or three other teachers, works with a group of 60 to 80 students and covers all subjects. She leads all of her team’s planning meetings, monthly professional learning community meetings, monthly “learning walks,” and, occasionally, all-staff meetings or professional development sessions.
For Lavely, the chance to change school culture to cultivate excellence and reach high bars with all students through leading other teachers—while remaining in the classroom herself—has proved irresistible.
“I set my expectations so high, but I always think there’s more that can be done,” Lavely says. In the case study, Lavely describes the leadership responsibilities she has accepted and her team’s results: A set of classrooms fully proficient in both math and reading—including students in special education and English language learners—and 70 percent of those students ranking in the top two achievement categories on the 2011–12 state math exam, up from 52 percent the previous year.
“In my first three years here, I kept hearing the words ‘pass the state assessment.’ With the rest of the school, I set that as my goal,” she says. “Last year, one of things I started realizing, and bringing back to my team, was that these are really low expectations. If you’re setting a goal, that’s what you’re going to get. That truly is what led to our 70-percent grade achieving in the top two categories.”
Overall, Leading Educators reports, students taught by teams led by Leading Educators fellows achieved five times more improvement on state standardized tests than their district counterparts in Kansas City in 2011–12, and 12 times more than their counterparts across the districts they serve in New Orleans.
Sadly, Lavely’s role does not include higher pay to match the greater number of students she reaches with excellence. Lavely discusses how the lack of pay matching her greater responsibility may ultimately push her out of the classroom, into administration—but how much she would prefer to continue teaching.
With a career path that would allow her to continue leading other teachers without leaving the classroom, and better pay, “this would be the ideal position for me,” Lavely says.
As Leading Educators expands its work, it will focus on helping schools and districts create sustainable, paid leadership opportunities for its leaders, enabling them to advance in their careers while remaining teachers. The Opportunity Culture Multi-Classroom Leadership model provides a roadmap to get there.
Leading Educators: Empowering Teacher-Leaders to Extend Their Reach by Leading Teams was co-authored by Sharon Kebschull Barrett and Jiye Grace Han, with contributions from Public Impact’s Joe Ableidinger, Bryan C. Hassel, and Emily Ayscue Hassel.
–Bryan C. Hassel and Emily Ayscue Hassel