Redesigning Schools for Financially Sustainable Excellence: Infographic!



By 05/07/2012

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Everybody loves a good infographic (even you wonky researchers – just wait ‘til nobody’s looking), and we hope this one will change how you view education reform efforts.

For word nerds, here’s a summary:

  • Our nation is falling behind globally as other nations provide increasingly rigorous and widespread education to their people. No surprises there.
  • It’s not hard to see why: In contrast to educationally high-performing nations, ours is not selective about who teaches our children. As a result, schools cannot provide the kind of autonomy that great teachers crave. They just can’t have confidence that most teaching professionals will self- lead the rigor-and-innovation infused school cultures great teachers want and students need.
  • Click to Enlarge

  • But excellent teachers literally make all the difference for kids who rely on school for learning opportunity. The top 20-25 percent produce about a half year more learning progress than solid teachers, on average. A child who starts one year behind can catch up in two years and then become an honors student two years later – if the child has excellent teachers four years running. A student who starts stuck in the middle can become an honors student, and then excel like top international peers, with the same run of excellent teachers. In contrast, students who have good, solid teachers every year, or the usual distribution, end up where they started compared to peers.
  • Yet only 25% of classes are taught by excellent teachers, ones who achieve this level of student growth on average and who develop students’ higher-order thinking with similar skill. That means 75% of classrooms, and the students in them, are left out.
  • What can be done? How about extending the reach of excellent teachers to more students, effectively putting them in charge of all U.S. classrooms and every student? But how?

If you’ve been following our work on this, you know that we released 20+ school model summaries late last year. Last week, we released 10 detailed school models. These models use job redesign and technology to extend the reach of excellent teachers to more students, for more pay. Many let these same teachers help peers produce excellent results, create collaborative work teams and free teachers’ time for additional planning and professional development. And they’re all designed to work within current budgets – generating cost savings that can be used to pay excellent teachers more and meet other school needs.

In each of these models, teachers have career opportunities dependent upon their excellence, leadership, and student impact. Advancement allows more pay and greater reach. These school models are part of our effort – now with numerous partners – to create an “Opportunity Culture” for all U.S. teachers and students. And if you wonder what that really means, well now’s the time to open that infographic.

Of course, policy barrier are plentiful, as we wrote here. But many of the barriers to an Opportunity Culture are barriers of the mind and will.

We hope some practical tools will help willing leaders. We will be releasing more soon – career paths, job descriptions, evaluation tools, a short video to engage teachers in school redesign, and more. Learn more at our new website: OpportunityCulture.org.

-Emily Ayscue Hassel and Bryan Hassel




Comment on this article
  • Anne Clark says:

    I agree that Elementary Specialization is a huge need. There are a number of schools who are trying this with math. Are there any good studies out there on the effectiveness of this intervention?

  • Emily & Bryan Hassel says:

    Good question. Strong research is just beginning to emerge on this topic. Gerretson, Bosnick, and Schofield (2008)* found that using mathematics specialists at the elementary school level allowed teachers more time to effectively plan lessons and focus their professional development. In addition, teachers in this study reported gains in student achievement. More recently, Brookings researchers Brian Jacobs and Jonah Rockoff (2011) found that specialization could have a significant impact on student learning because individual elementary teachers are often much better at teaching either math or reading. Most importantly, if a teacher is already getting great results in a particular subject, having that person reach more kids in the same is at least worth a try.

    We hope that this and other promising practices for letting great teachers help more students will be studied even more in the future.

    * Citation: “Promising practice: a case for content specialists as the elementary classroom teacher.” The Teacher Educator Journal, 43(4), 302–14.

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