We can all debate the relative importance of various education reforms, but one is little disputed: Excellent teachers produce more learning progress than other teachers, and they move kids on to higher-order learning. Nations such as Finland, Singapore, and Korea that have zipped past us on international tests have a common element: They limit teaching to those who were top students in high school and beyond. 100 percent of their teachers were top students themselves.
In contrast, 75 percent of U.S. classrooms do not have an excellent teacher in charge. But in this country, limiting teaching to top grads would just produce a teacher shortage. Here, star students have so many career opportunities. Most want the psychic and financial rewards of having excellence recognized at work—hard to come by if they remain teachers. So, as we have posted on the Ed Next blog before, our nation needs a different strategy: extending the reach of excellent teachers. But how?
Public Impact has just posted brief descriptions of more than 20 school models for extending the reach of excellent teachers to more students, for more pay, within budget. We are seeking five major sites to tailor and implement these and similar school models that put excellent teachers in charge of more children’s learning.
The models describe how schools can adjust teaching roles and use technology to reach every child with excellent teachers—the 20 to 25 percent who make well over a year of progress each year, on average, with their students. In coming months, Public Impact will add examples and detail, including job descriptions, evaluation rubrics, and financial considerations. All will be available, free, on OpportunityCulture.org.
This work builds on Public Impact’s “Opportunity Culture” initiative, which aims both to reach every child with high-growth, enriched learning and to provide paid career advancement opportunities to excellent teachers, within budget. It is made possible by $1 million in funding from Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and builds on a two-year initiative funded primarily by The Joyce Foundation. The Colorado Legacy Foundation also contributed to early model development.
The new funding supports development and dissemination of the models, engagement of teachers and other stakeholders, tracking of efforts to extend the reach of top teachers, and recruitment of the five sites.
Excellent teachers from Teach Plus and other experts contributed to the models, alongside the initial Opportunity Culture Advisory Team, which includes leaders in teaching, technology, and philanthropic organizations.
From the five sites chosen to implement the models, Public Impact will expect a commitment to reach far more children with excellent teachers and to adhere to the Opportunity Culture reach extension principles:
1. Reach more children successfully with excellent teachers.
2. Pay excellent teachers more for reaching more children successfully.
3. Achieve permanent financial sustainability, keeping post-transition costs within the budgets available from regular per-pupil funding sources.
4. Include roles for other educators that enable solid performers both to learn from excellent peers and to contribute to excellent outcomes for children.
5. Identify the adult who is accountable for each student’s outcomes, and clarify what people, technology, and other resources (s)he is empowered to choose and manage.
Those interested in becoming an implementation site or in offering model feedback should contact Public Impact at firstname.lastname@example.org.
-Emily Ayscue Hassel and Bryan Hassel