When Top Students Drop: Why Even Good Schools Need to Grow

RealClearEducationOver a the past several months Real Clear Education has been spotlighting schools and teachers participating in the Opportunity Culture initiative, a movement launched in 2011 by education policy and consulting firm Public Impact. Opportunity Culture models are aimed at improving the quality of education by extending the reach of excellent teachers and their teams, encouraging teacher selectivity, increasing opportunities for teachers to advance in their careers without leaving the classroom, promoting on-the-job learning, and boosting teacher pay — all within regular budgets.

The Opportunity culture movement focuses on a new approach called Multi-Classroom Leadership. Multi-classroom leadership puts the best teachers where they can share their great teaching skills and tools with other teachers and more students.

Much evidence indicates that Multi-Classroom Leadership and the Opportunity Culture benefits struggling learners and high-need schools, but the latest feature in Real Clear Education shows what happens when a high performing school adopts the model. After several rounds of data analysis, the school’s design team realized that while the school was perceived as doing fine—OK, at least—it was losing ground with the students in the top 20 percent. The 2012–13 state test data showed negative growth in reading for the highest-level eighth-graders, compared with pretty good growth for the middle-level students.

Multi-classroom leadership has facilitated change at this school. A multi-classroom leader reflects:

My team knew we needed to push our high kids without losing ground with the others. Sometimes the mindset becomes that since high-performing students are smart, they should automatically do well. We needed to put as much effort into teaching them as we did struggling learners. That meant we needed to plan. Previous meetings had been more sharing and venting than planning. Through weekly meetings and follow-up conversations, we realized we needed a separate planning time just for our honors classes. 

Official state reading data for eighth grade at the school supports the value of an MCL-led, collaborative team: Both the middle-leveled students and the highest group of students showed improved growth compared with prior years. These were classrooms that were directly impacted by an MCL either through co-teaching, modeling, and student relationships or through targeted planning. 

To read more about this school’s story, see: http://www.realcleareducation.com/articles/2015/12/15/when_top_students_drop_why_even_good_schools_need_to_grow_1251.html.

To read more about multi-classroom leadership, see: http://opportunityculture.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Multi-Classroom_Leadership_School_Model-Public_Impact.pdf