Projected Statewide Impact of “Opportunity Culture” School Models

Opportunity CultureThe impact of “Opportunity Culture” schools could be students gaining years of learning, and teachers earning hundreds of thousands more over their careers.

In a major policy brief out, Public Impact estimates what a state would gain by implementing “Opportunity Culture” models statewide, using North Carolina as an example for analysis. Opportunity Culture models redesign jobs to extend the reach of excellent teachers to more students, for more pay, and within budget—typically in collaborative teams on which all teachers can pursue instructional excellence together and are formally accountable for all of the students they serve.

Using conservative assumptions to analyze the cumulative impact over one generation of students, or approximately 16 years of implementation, in three-fourths of North Carolina’s classrooms, Public Impact’s analysis projects that:

  • Students on average would gain 3.4 more years’ worth of learning than in a traditional school model in the K-12 years.
  • Teachers leading teams would earn up to $848,000 more in a 35-year career, with considerably higher figures possible for large-span teacher-leader roles not included in this analysis.
  • Teachers joining teams to extend their reach could earn approximately an additional $240,000 over their careers.
  • State income tax revenue would be up to $700 million higher in present-value terms over 16 years of implementation.
  • State domestic product would increase by $4.6 billion to $7.7 billion in present-value terms over the next 16 years.

The authors project that teachers leading teams in states with pay closer to the national average would earn up to $1 million more in a 35-year career. Public Impact has separately suggested that a 10 percent average base pay increase is also needed for teachers in North Carolina, where pay is near the bottom nationally.

The brief provides an analytical framework that any state could use to estimate the benefits of transitioning to higher-paid school models that extend highly effective teachers’ reach. It addresses the ways a state could make the transition to these Opportunity Culture models, and some of the critical policy conditions needed for the transition.

Public Impact’s analysis projects that children would acquire more than three extra years’ worth of learning in a K-12 career-which would translate into average lifetime earnings increases of $100,000 to $130,000 per student, according to research showing the link between student achievement and lifetime earnings potential.

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School Districts Get Advice on ‘Doing More With Less’: Report reflects new realities

Spending-Money-Wisely-AD-on-DMJWith America’s public schools unlikely to return to past funding levels in the near future, the District Management Council ( released a policy guide this week to help districts thrive, rather than just survive, within the constraints of their new fiscal realities.

In the main report, “Spending Money Wisely: Getting the Most From School District Budgets,” the council lists 10 high-impact opportunities that it says helps school systems “do more with less.” The Boston-based nonprofit, which helps its member districts with management issues, will begin posting a set of papers outlining specific steps to implement the cost-saving measures, on its website.

The Top 10 steps that school districts can take to manage their funds more effectively, according to the District Management Council’s latest research:

1. Calculating the academic return on investment of existing programs

2. Managing student-enrollment projections to meet class-size targets

3. Evaluating and adjusting remediation and intervention staffing levels

4. Adopting politically acceptable ways to increase class size or teachers’ workload

5. Spending federal entitlement grants to leverage their flexibility

6. Adopting more-efficient and higher-quality reading programs

7. Improving the cost-effectiveness of professional development

8. Rethinking how items are purchased

9. Lowering the cost of extended learning time

10. Targeting new investments by eliminating inefficient and unsuccessful strategies

One overall conclusion from this list is that evaluating current systems to find flexibility and chances for reform is a crucial strategy.

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Marc Tucker: Designing a Better Accountability System

school-accountabilityFor the past few months, Marc Tucker, of the National Center on Education and the Economy, has written a series of blog posts in which he lays out his plans for comprehensive reforms to bring more accountability to American education.

Tucker began back in February with a post entitled, “NCLB, California and Accountability in all its Guises” in which he argued that there is no evidence that test-based accountability helps students, teachers, or schools improve student achievement.

Tucker went on to elaborate on this theme in “The Failure of Test-Based Accountability”. Here, Tucker argues that testing has not only been unhelpful but downright harmful to the profession of teaching.

In his next post, “Accountability and Motivation”, Tucker evaluates various options for bringing greater accountability to American education.

Then, drawing on a career theme for his work, Tucker focuses, in “Accountability: What the Top Performers Do”, on how the top performing school districts around the world set up their successful accountability systems. Essentially, tests are used only to hold students, rather than teachers and schools as in the United States, accountable. This takes place as students know exactly which courses and tests they must take in order to move on to the career or university they have chosen and as their diplomas display exactly which courses they took and how they did on those courses.

Next, in “Accountability and the Modern Teachers’ Union”, Tucker explains how he feels the defensive and political position of modern American teachers’ unions has not aided the profession. Rather, he argues the teaching profession should do what other professions have done in the United States and what teachers have already done in countries with more successful education systems: boost the profession by making it harder to become a teacher. Once this takes place, there will be a stock of better teachers leading to better student results leading to higher respect for the profession leading to higher pay for teachers. Everyone is happy.

Following up, Tuckers writes three successive posts, here and here and here, about his vision for an overall improvement of the American educational accountability system. Tucker also sums up his plans in this post, in which he lays out a plan for four comprehensive tests given to students through their public school career. These tests would be expensive, but the fact that there would only be four would make up for this, and the benefits of good testing aligned to academic and professional goals would be well worth it. Moreover, the system would give more time for teachers to be accountable to each other.

Tucker concludes the series with “The Federal Role in State Education Accountability Systems”, which discusses the means by which the federal government can play a helpful role in facilitating this plan without intruding on state and local rights.

For those especially interested in macro-education reform, these posts are very much worth your time and effort. Tucker is an education veteran who has explored many education models and seeks to synthesize them to help American education.

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Should High Schools Open Later?

11219.pdfHigh school students everywhere may rejoice to hear the latest research on school start times for students in their age group.

A new report from the Education Commission of the States ( says school begins too early for these students, a point about which there should be no dispute.

Following are three key takeaways from the report:

1. Research shows adolescents, driven to later wake/sleep times by their biological clocks, lose as much as an average of 2.7 hours of sleep on school days.

2. There is virtually unanimous agreement in the research community that later start times in adolescent education would produce a positive change in adolescent learning, health, and safety.

3. Few, if any, educational interventions are so strongly supported by research evidence from so many different disciplines and experts in the field.

Following is the link to the report:

The conclusions of this report will certainly be useful to the state of Maryland, which passed a bill earlier this spring to study school start times. Montgomery County Public Schools (MD), one of the largest school districts in the nation, has already been studying the issue, and Superintendent Joshua Starr has recommended moving school start times back 50 minutes.

See the related link to an article about the MD bill:


Rural Education: Examining Capacity Challenges That Influence Educator Effectiveness

mcrellogo.ashxJane Best and Courtney Cohen of McREL have written a helpful document looking at some of the hot button education issues today, but with a unique focus on rural education.

While a quarter of all American students are enrolled in rural public schools, many rural teachers and administrators believe that education stakeholders are slow to fully recognize and address the unique challenges facing rural educators.

This brief addresses some capacity challenges highlighted by rural teachers and administrators including:

  • Recruiting and retaining highly effective teachers
  • Connectivity to technology and use of digital capacity
  • Effective teacher evaluation processes for rural school settings

The paper discusses recent steps taken by the federal government and individual states to address the concerns of rural teachers and administrators and provides considerations and recommendations for policymakers. It concludes with a series of thought-provoking follow up questions, which would be very useful for a professional development session.

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A Model Code of Ethics for Educators

nasdtecNASDTEC has undertaken an important new initiative, the development of a model code of ethics for educators. The focus of this work is to provide a uniform set of standards that educators can use as they interact with colleagues, parents, and students. The goal is to provide a model code of ethics that state agencies, school districts, professional associations, and educator preparation programs can adopt or adapt as they deem best.

An outstanding group of educators will serve as the Model Code of Ethics for Educators (MCEE) Task Force. Katherine Bassett, Executive Director of the National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY), has agreed to facilitate the work of the task force. Anne Marie Fenton, of the Georgia Professional Standards Commission (GAPSC), will serve as the co-facilitator. The MCEE Task Force will benefit from the support of a highly regarded subject matter expert, Dr. Troy Hutchings of the University of Phoenix.

NASDTEC has established a page on its website that will serve as a source to keep you informed on the progress of the project, including a press release and a full list of the members of the task force.

Should you need additional information, please feel free to contact Mike Carr at

For more information on this unique project, please visit:


White House Report: Race to the Top Setting the Pace for Gains across the Education System

race to the top.ashxMore support for educators and increases in student achievement are among signs of progress at the anniversary of President Obama’s signature education reform, at least according to the U.S. Education Department.

In the four years since the Obama Administration announced its first Race to the Top grants, the President’s signature education initiative has helped spark a wave of reform across the country, according to a report released recently by the White House and Department of Education, entitled “Setting the Pace: Expanding  Opportunity for America’s Students in Race to the Top”.

As the four-year anniversary of those grants arrives, “Setting the Pace” finds that the President’s education reform agenda has helped raise standards for students, foster better support teachers and school leaders, and turn around low-performing schools. Ultimately, these efforts have led to signs of encouraging progress among the nation’s students.

Among the report’s key findings are:

  • States that received Race to the Top funds to reform their K-12 education systems serve 22 million students and 1.5 million teachers in more than 40,000 schools.
  • These states represent 45 percent of all students and a similar percentage of all low-income students. Some of the most encouraging signs of progress have come in states that have done the most to embrace the types of reforms called for in Race to the Top, including Tennessee, Hawaii and the District of Columbia.
  • All Race to the Top grantees have taken key steps toward focusing on college- and career-readiness for all students and supporting hard-working teachers and principals, including developing a number of new tools and resources, providing coaching for educators, and expanding options for students.

“Race to the Top set out to advance a simple idea: that the most powerful ideas for improving education come not from Washington, but from educators and leaders in states throughout the country. Now, nearly four years in, change is touching nearly half the nation’s students – for an investment that represents less than 1 percent of education spending,” U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said. “We know this work is never easy, but what is most encouraging is that despite some debate in state legislatures and here in Congress, state and district leaders have had the courage to put their plan into action.

“The Obama Administration is focused on expanding opportunity for America’s students to ensure not only that they have a shot at achieving the American dream, but that the next generation of American workers can continue to compete in the global economy,” said Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. “The Race to the Top program has helped spur the change and improvement needed in our education system, demonstrating that by working together across the federal government, with governors and school boards, principals and teachers, businesses and non-profits, parents and students – we can provide the education that our young people need and deserve, to prepare for college and a successful career.”

At 80 percent, the nation’s high school graduation rate is the highest in American history, potentially influenced by comprehensive, state-led efforts inspired in part by Race to the Top. In addition, student test scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress are the highest since the test was first given 20 years ago.

With an initial budget of just more than $4 billion – less than 1 percent of total education spending in America – Race to the Top unleashed a flurry of pent-up education reform activity at the state and local level. Hopefully, these efforts have created strong enough partnerships among parents, educators, and state and community leaders to continue this progress in the months and years ahead.

The report highlights examples of the most innovative and effective reforms that are taking place in states across the country to prepare students for college and careers, support educators, and spur innovative educational strategies. From Massachusetts’ work to increase access to Advanced Placement (AP) classes by training more than 1,100 middle and high school teachers, to Tennessee’s efforts to support its educators by coaching 30,000 on new state standards and equipping 700 teacher-leader coaches, to Florida’s investment in programs to get the best and brightest educators to the highest-needs areas, to Maryland’s development of STEM curriculum models for use in language programs statewide, states are leading the way with plans tailored to meet the unique needs of their educators and students. This federal support, paired with state and local investment and leadership, is getting results for students and educators.

Looking at these examples and the progress made across our education system, the report finds that while much work remains, Race to the Top has empowered and reinforced the best ideas at the state and local level. By staying on course, America can continue to make progress toward ensuring that every child has an opportunity to get a world-class education and the skills he or she will need to succeed in today’s economy – and tomorrow’s.

“Encouraged and supported by Race to the Top, states are taking major steps forward for our nation’s students,” the report concludes. “There will never be a moment to declare victory in this race – the work will continue for many years to come. But America’s educators remain committed to support all our children on their path to a prosperous future. State and local leaders share that commitment. Staying on course is critical while this hard work is underway.”

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ED Releases New Parent and Community Engagement Framework

fce-frameworkThe fourth quarter of the school year is generally a time of preparation for schools and districts as they finalize next year’s budget, student and teacher schedules, and professional development for the upcoming school year. During this time of preparation, it is important that schools and districts discuss ways that they can support parents and the community in helping students to achieve success.

To aid in this work, the U.S. Department of Education has released a framework for schools and the broader communities they serve to build parent and community engagement. Across the country, less than a quarter of residents are 18 years old or younger, and all of us have a responsibility for helping our schools succeed. The Dual Capacity framework, a process used to teach school and district staff to effectively engage parents and for parents to work successfully with the schools to increase student achievement, provides a model that schools and districts can use to build the type of effective community engagement that will make schools the center of our communities.

An example of how the elements of the framework can lead to improved engagement is exhibited in Baltimore. Baltimore City Public Schools worked to support 12,000 pre-kindergarten and kindergarten homes, and to engage families in home-based literacy practices. Each week students received a different bag filled with award-winning children’s books, exposing children, on average, to more than 100 books per year. The book rotation also includes parent training and information on how to share books effectively to promote children’s early literacy skills and nurture a love of learning. Through the program, families are also connected with their local public and school libraries. At the culmination of the program, children receive a permanent bag to keep and continue the practice of borrowing books and building a lifelong habit of reading.

For more information on the Dual Capacity Framework, as well as an introductory video from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, please take some time and review the website at In the coming months, ED will provide additional resources and information so that schools, districts, communities, and parents can learn more about family and community engagement as well as share the wonderful work they are doing to build parent, school, and community capacity that supports all students.

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April Issue Brief: The Changing Assessment Landscape

InCaseYouMissedIt_post_title_imageWith pilot tests being conducted and debates raging over Common Core-aligned assessments, new changes proposed for the SAT, and emerging plans for new science assessments, the landscape of educational assessments is changing rapidly. In this month’s issue brief, we have assembled summary information and links that will keep you on the cutting edge.

What are your go-to resources for information about the new assessments? What are your lessons learned from recent pilot tests? How are you navigating the changing assessment landscape within your organization?  Please respond to our call for commentary. We’d love to hear from you!

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Teach to Lead

teach to leadSecretary Duncan announced that, over the next year, he and NBPTS President Ron Thorpe will co-convene a new initiative, Teach to Lead, to foster ambitious commitments on authentic opportunities for teachers to take up leadership roles without leaving the classroom.

The goal is to ensure that when important decisions are being made about the work teachers do, they are there to help set the direction for their classrooms, schools, the profession, and, ultimately, make sure students have the best opportunities to learn.

Teach to Lead will entail a series of gatherings engaging teachers, principals, district leaders, Chief State School Officers, and teacher groups.  Participants will commit to acting on the steps necessary to create more opportunities for teacher leadership in the field.  The Secretary and Thorpe will report back on the commitments and activities from this diverse group at next year’s NBPTS meeting.

Secretary Duncan, in considering the need for Teach to Lead, remarked, “I’ve heard from many teachers who are tired of the heartbreaking choice between serving their students and serving their profession.”  

The work of Teach to Lead was begun back in 2012 with the Blueprint for RESPECT campaign. In 2012 ED released the Blueprint for RESPECT, which was informed by input from thousands of educators and calls for strengthening and elevating the teaching profession in the United States. Importantly, rather than envisioning this teacher leadership as requiring teachers to leave their classrooms, RESPECT calls for career pathways so teachers can lead from their classrooms.

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