Opportunity Culture

oppcultureTeacher pay can often be the elephant in the room when it comes to discussion of the success of American education.  Many believe that increasing teacher pay, or at least providing possibilities for teachers to earn more, would encourage more high-quality candidates to enter the profession and drive up the reputation of teachers.  Others argue that discussing changes in pay is a non-starter because finding more pay, especially in the post-recession era, seems impossible. Others argue that any tactic that tries to improve education through corporate-style models that focus on pay increases is inherently flawed.  Emily and Bryan Hassel, co-directors of Public Impact, hope that they have created a model that will speak to each of these concerns.

A new brief by Public Impact Co-Directors Emily Ayscue Hassel and Bryan C. Hassel, An Opportunity Culture for All: Making Teaching a Highly Paid, High-Impact Profession, updates their vision of an Opportunity Culture. It explains how extending the reach of great teachers can start a virtuous cycle of excellence and higher pay for all teachers.

Schools across the country have latched on to the need to reach more students with their excellent teachers. Districts and charter schools have begun to embrace Public Impact’s vision of an Opportunity Culture, creating pilot schools that use job redesign and age-appropriate technology to extend excellent teachers’ reach, directly and by leading other teachers, in fully accountable roles, for more pay-but within budget.

As the Public Impact team has worked with teachers on school design teams, it has become increasingly clear how extending the reach of excellent teachers starts a virtuous cycle enabling increased teacher selectivity, opportunity, and pay-for all:

Selectivity about who enters and remains in teaching becomes far easier when schools offer the engaging, developmental, financially rewarding jobs with outstanding peers that high performers want and that reach models allow. When good teachers benefit developmentally and financially from having great peers, everyone has a reason to advocate for selectivity.

Opportunity for career advancement and rigorous, on-the-job learning becomes possible when great teachers advance by collaborating with, leading, and developing other teachers in teams to reach more students (without forcing class-size increases). Co-teaching on teams where excellence is acknowledged provides authentic on-the-job learning, and it enables a team’s teaching to rise to the level of the most skilled teachers in each instructional area. Paraprofessionals scheduled correctly enable in-school collaboration time and greater reach.

Pay that is substantially higher—potentially doubling to six figures on average, within budget—becomes doable when teams reach more students than is possible in today’s one-teacher-one-classroom mode, and when schools shift other spending to teacher pay. Using less-costly paraprofessionals to save teachers time for reach and shifting academic resource teachers back into fully accountable teaching roles both lead to higher teacher pay. In this brief, the Hassels also call for a national commitment to reallocating other existing and new spending to higher teacher pay, which together with reach models can make teaching a six-figure profession.

An Opportunity Culture using new school models that extend excellent teachers’ reach makes achieving this new vision possible, particularly when tailored to allow all teachers to succeed in teams and thereby increasing the odds of widespread improvement in teaching and learning.

These aren’t your mother’s teams: They keep a relentless focus on leadership by proven excellent teachers, who are accountable for the learning of all the students taught by their teams and for rigorous on-the-job development of team teachers. Team teachers can earn more on efficient teams, and teacher-leaders can earn far more for their leadership.

With these changes in selectivity, opportunity, and pay, our nation could go from giving no one what’s needed to giving everyone what they want: for teachers, sustainable, well-paid career advancement, rigorous development on the job, and whole careers’ worth of engaging work; for students, excellent teaching for all, consistently, increasing their lifelong prospects; and for the broader community, an improved economy, national security, and social stability. That’s an Opportunity Culture for all.

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