'Opportunity Culture' approach spreads teacher leadership without requiring exit from classroom
- A solution to teacher recruitment and retention may be hidden within a district’s staff, according to a new article in The Hechinger Report that details Opportunity Culture, a creative initiative where effective educators double as “teacher-leaders” and spend time coaching other teachers in a school.
- Students are said to achieve three times the learning gains when they have effective teachers. Opportunity Culture aims to share this wealth of knowledge while also empowering teachers who want to be school leaders, but don’t want to leave the classroom.
- An estimated 250 schools across the nation have already instituted an Opportunity Culture or are in the midst of creating one, according to Public Impact, the education advocacy group behind the program. Teacher-leaders get paid extra for taking on the additional responsibilities.
Edgecombe County Public Schools in North Carolina is set to become the first district to implement the model across all of its schools. The results, according to the article, have been significant. “Based on state expectations for student growth, a middle and elementary school went from underperforming during the 2016-17 school year to meeting growth expectations last year” the site reported the district’s director of innovation stating, noting also that one high school “exceeded growth expectations two years in a row and entered the top 20% of schools in the state on that measure.”
All three of the schools that began implementing the model last year met their growth expectations or exceeded them. While Opportunity Culture may be new — it was first introduced in the 2013-14 school year — the idea is not so revolutionary. Ultimately, Opportunity Culture taps into the idea of bottom-up decision making and recognizing the fact that educators have valuable insight and lessons to provide their districts.
Working on the front lines each day, teachers have a more evidence-based idea of what may or may not work in the classroom. Bottom-up decision making, which has been gaining traction nationally, can also spark innovation. And research shows that empowering teachers to become leaders increases student achievement. The New Teacher Center's recent Teaching, Empowering, Leading, and Learning survey, found that schools reporting the highest levels of teacher leadership also had students performing at least 10% higher on state math and ELA tests than schools with lower levels of teacher leadership. This remained true even after disparate elements — such as school population, location and demographics — were factored in.
A report by the New Teacher Center also noted that “when teachers are involved in decision-making processes related to school improvement planning and student conduct policies, students learn more.”
- The Hechinger Report Using teacher-leaders to improve schools