Staffing Innovations from the Pandemic

Recently in The Hill, Thomas Toch and Lynn Olson, both of FutureEd, reflected on staffing innovations that are emerging as promising practices amid the pandemic. Excerpts from the piece appear below:

One reason distance learning has been such a harrowing experience during the pandemic is that most schools merely shifted the traditional teaching model to online platforms. In contrast, some schools and school districts sought to use technology to their advantage.

Frequently, they have worked to get their best teachers in front of more students. That’s what a group of former charter and traditional school district officials sought to do when they launched a nonprofit organization at the outset of the pandemic called Cadence Learning

They hired a national team of distinguished educators to record lessons in front of a group of students and then send the lessons to schools serving 8,800 students in 11 states and Washington that partnered with Cadence. Teachers in the local partner schools play the recording for their students or teach a version of the lesson themselves, using virtual breakout rooms to work with their local students in small groups.

The local teachers like the partnership and the vast majority of them reported to University of Virginia researchers that their students improved their academic abilities during Cadence’s program last summer. Students also rated the experience highly.

Another strategy puts top teachers in charge of instructional teams serving multiple classrooms as a way to distribute teaching responsibilities based on teacher strengths and increase teacher-to-teacher support.

The nonprofit Public Impact has helped introduce the concept in 45 school districts and charter management organizations in 10 states, where lead instructors manage as many as eight teachers, paraprofessionals and teacher residents in the same grade or subject. These team leaders coach teachers and track students’ progress while earning larger pay checks. Before the pandemic, a national study found that the teaching teams boosted students’ math and reading results significantly.

Other schools have rethought traditional class sizes and school schedules. A suburban Cleveland elementary school shifted to having students in each grade take art, music, physical education and other special subjects on a single day every week during the pandemic, giving classroom teachers in each grade an entire day to plan together. At a Minneapolis high school, teachers shifted its schedule after realizing students were overwhelmed by remote learning. The new model at a project-based learning academy within Patrick Henry High School concentrates instruction in each subject, making students’ schedules much simpler.

Kairos Academies, a St. Louis charter middle school, operates on a seven-week cycle year-round: Students attend school for five weeks and are off for two; staff have one week off and another for training and planning

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