Case studies on two Indianapolis charter schools—Phalen Leadership Academy and Carpe Diem-Meridian—examine the schools’ approaches to blended learning in their first years. Commissioned by statewide charter authorizer the Indiana Charter School Board, the case studies provide lessons for potential school leaders considering similar schools.
What do you get when you combine an experienced charter school leader with a new model that mixes multi-classroom leaders and blended learning in a high-need school? At charter management organization Touchstone Education, you get nimble teachers, quick to adjust their models as needed, and some great student results.
“We have learned that the one most important thing we can do to positively impact the learning of a child is to consistently provide them with a great teacher,” says Ben Rayer, Touchstone’s founder and CEO, and former president of Mastery Charter Schools. “In our model, we have reframed what teachers do and how they are developed.”
Touchstone opened its first site in fall 2012, Merit Preparatory Charter School in Newark, N.J. The school started small, with 84 sixth-graders, so it could quickly adjust and learn from its efforts. In its first year, with a student population that is 90 percent low-income and was generally several years behind grade level, Merit Prep Newark showed great growth in reading and science: By March 2013 tests, students already demonstrated two years of growth in reading and 1.25 years of growth in science.
Its reading scores came out of an English language arts program led by a “master teacher,” an excellent teacher who taught with and led a first-year teacher. In Public Impact’s latest Opportunity Culture case study, Touchstone Education: New Charter With Experienced Leader Learns From Extending Teachers’ Reach, we look at how this teacher, Tiffany McAfee (at right), led the school’s teachers in their focus on literacy, and how the school combined her leadership with online instruction.
In math, where Touchstone leaders were unable to hire a master teacher last year, Merit Prep’s students had made three-fourths of a year of growth by March—solid results, but not enough to close achievement gaps. Touchstone plans to develop the math team in the next year, in hopes of achieving results similar to the other subjects.
Touchstone has big plans for growth. At full capacity, Merit Prep Newark will have 560 students in grades 6–12, and Touchstone intends to open 50 schools in seven years, ultimately reaching 30,000 students.
Merit Prep Newark is in the early stages of intentionally creating an Opportunity Culture for teachers. As it and Touchstone scale up, they plan to extend the reach of their excellent teachers to many more students than they reach now. Touchstone uses versions of two Opportunity Culture models, Multi-Classroom Leadership and Time-Technology Swap.
Touchstone’s Time-Technology Swap engages students in digital learning for a part of their day to enable great teachers to reach more students and focus on teaching higher-order thinking skills. This case study provides details of how Merit Prep’s students move through the day between in-person and online teaching, and how its teachers incorporated the online portions.
At scale, Touchstone’s schools will meet the five Reach Extension Principles of an Opportunity Culture, which call for reaching more students with excellent teaching, higher pay, sustainable funding, job-embedded development opportunity, and enhanced authority and clear accountability for great teachers.
Merit Prep’s master teachers will teach with and develop teams of novice and developing teachers. Touchstone’s career ladder enables consistently excellent teachers to climb to the “master teacher” position, in which they can earn up to $100,000 a year without leaving the classroom, within per-pupil funding.
Master Teacher McAfee still sounds slightly amazed at the pay possibilities this model offers.
“I think the sky is the limit. I never would have thought that about teacher salary—usually, it’s, ‘I’m going to cap out soon as a teacher. I do it because I love it, etc.,’” she says. “But to actually think that I could be paid what I’m worth is the best feeling in the world. Teachers are so underappreciated and devalued, especially ELA teachers.”
Touchstone Education: New Charter with Experienced Leader Learns From Extending Teachers’ Reach was co-authored by Sharon Kebschull BarrettJiye Grace Han, with contributions from Public Impact’s Joe Ableidinger, Bryan C. Hassel, and Emily Ayscue Hassel.
In late 2011, Denise Watts, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg zone superintendent, approached Public Impact for help meeting the goals she had as executive director for the new Project L.I.F.T., a $55 million public-private partnership to improve academics at historically low-performing, high-need schools in western Charlotte, N.C.
“If we didn’t try something truly different to change education, many of my students were not going to graduate,” Watts says.
Public Impact’s second Opportunity Culture case study, Charlotte, N.C.’s Project L.I.F.T.: New Teaching Roles Create Culture of Excellence in High-Need Schools, explains the “truly different” things that L.I.F.T. did to redesign four schools using Opportunity Culture models and principles. The study details the steps these schools took and the challenges they faced as they prepared to kick off their Opportunity Culture schools at the beginning of the 2013–14 school year. An accompanying study, Charlotte, N.C.’s Project L.I.F.T.: One Teacher’s View of Becoming a Paid Teacher-Leader, offers a Q&A with an excellent teacher on one design team, now set to take on one of the redesigned jobs as a multi-classroom leader.
In Public Impact’s Opportunity Culture initiative—which highlights the potential of using job redesign and technology to reach more students with excellent teachers, for more pay, within budget—Denise Watts saw a key way to reach her ambitious goals. Those goals include raising West Charlotte High School’s graduation rate from 54 percent in 2011 to 90 percent in 2016, and she saw that the Opportunity Culture models could help by focusing on its eight feeder schools.
Four of those feeder schools collectively became the first Opportunity Culture site, and for the past year, each school’s design team worked diligently to discern which of the more than 20 Opportunity Culture school models would work best at their school. The teams were seeking not just greater reach and higher pay, but also more school-hour time for collaboration, planning, and development. In different combinations at each school, they chose Multi-Classroom Leadership, Elementary Specialization, and Time-Technology Swaps, as well as one school’s variation on the swap, a “Time-Time Swap.”
- In English language arts, social studies, and science classes, multi-classroom leaders will instruct students directly and lead small teams of two novice or developing teachers and one paraprofessional.
- In math classes, excellent blended-learning teachers will use the rotation version of Time-Technology Swaps to extend their reach to more students, and also work in a team of developing and novice teachers on their way to becoming blended-learning teachers. A multi-classroom leader will lead all math teachers.
Thomasboro Academy will integrate Multi-Classroom Leadership in all grades, along with a “Time-Time Swap” that the school design team invented within the Reach Extension Principles, in third through eighth grades. The “expanded impact” teachers will specialize in one subject.
- In grades K–2, multi-classroom leaders will lead and develop teams of teachers, with support from teacher assistants.
- In third through eighth grade, Thomasboro’s “Time-Time Swap” has students rotate not between digital instruction and in-person teaching, but between paraprofessionals and excellent “expanded impact” teachers. Students will spend a limited part of each day working with paraprofessionals on projects and basic knowledge and skills, enabling excellent teachers who specialize in one subject to extend their reach to not just one grade, but two grades of students without increasing class size. Multi-classroom leaders will provide support to novice and developing teachers in these grades so that they can develop toward excellence and extend their reach as well.
“If there was one thing I knew, it was that I’d tried everything out there,” says Tonya Kales, principal at Ashley Park PreK–8 School. “I was definitely willing to take big risks with new ideas, because what we were doing just wasn’t enough.”
The efforts at these schools paid off, drawing a flood of 708 applicants from 24 states for 19 new positions. Candidates included current teachers—60 percent of whom had more than five years of teaching experience—as well as administrators, facilitators, coaches, and even staff in Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s district office.
All the schools had to design models that adhered to the five Reach Extension Principles, which call for reaching more students with excellent teaching, higher pay, sustainable funding, job-embedded development opportunity, and enhanced authority and clear accountability for great teachers.
The ability to reward excellent teaching with higher pay will strengthen education, says Daniel Swartz, L.I.F.T.’s human capital strategies specialist.
“The money starts making teaching become equal to other professions. This provides a way for them to provide for their families, not have to have a second job, and to see a career where your value is based off of your performance, not just how many years or how old you are,” he says. “And the pay is comparable to other leadership roles within education, like principalships. In a couple of cases, these roles kept people in the schools instead of pursuing positions outside of the classroom.”
Charlotte, N.C.’s Project L.I.F.T.: Designing New Teaching Roles to Create Culture of Excellence in High-Need Schools and Charlotte, N.C.’s Project L.I.F.T.: One Teacher’s View of Becoming a Paid Teacher-Leader were co-authored by Jiye Grace Han and Sharon Kebschull Barrett, with contributions from Public Impact’s Joe Ableidinger, Bryan C. Hassel, and Emily Ayscue Hassel.
In Public Impact’s Opportunity Culture school models, schools use job redesign and technology to reach more students with excellent teachers, for more pay, within budget. As districts and schools around the country consider implementing their own Opportunity Cultures, they want real-life examples of just how others have already done so.
Today, we begin a series of case studies that provide in-depth looks at how districts, charter schools, and other programs have begun using Opportunity Culture models or experimented with similar means of expanding teachers’ impact on students and peer teachers. In the studies, we will describe new programs, including personal descriptions of teachers involved. We will also analyze how well the programs stack up to the five Reach Extension Principles, which call for reaching more students with excellent teaching, higher pay, sustainable funding, job-embedded development opportunity, and enhanced authority and clear accountability for great teachers.
In our first study, Leading Educators: Empowering Teacher-Leaders to Extend Their Reach by Leading Teams, we profile Anna Lavely of Kansas, who participates in Leading Educators’ two-year fellowship aimed at developing the leadership of already-excellent teachers.
Leading Educators’ fellows are currently spread out over 65 schools in Kansas City and New Orleans. A fellow’s school district or CMO must commit to placing the fellow in a role in which he or she leads a team of other teachers to meet the fellow’s standards of excellence; teaches students; and facilitates a teaching team’s collaboration and planning. After intensive training and visits to schools with a record of closing the achievement gap, fellows create yearlong projects that focus on leading other teachers and raising student achievement, designed and implemented by fellows to meet their schools’ needs.
At Edwardsville Elementary, a district school, Lavely serves as the chair of her teaching team, working with a group of 60 to 80 students and two or three other teachers, covering all subjects. She leads all of her team’s planning meetings, monthly professional learning community meetings, monthly “learning walks,” and, occasionally, all-staff meetings or professional development sessions. In that, her role resembles the Opportunity Culture initiative’s Multi-Classroom Leadership model.
For Lavely, the chance to change school culture to cultivate excellence and reach high bars with all students through leading other teachers—while remaining in the classroom herself—has proved irresistible.
“I set my expectations so high, but I always think there’s more that can be done,” Lavely says. In this study, Lavely describes the leadership responsibilities she has accepted and her team’s results: A set of classrooms fully proficient in both math and reading—including students in special education and English language learners—and 70 percent of those students ranking in the top two achievement categories on the 2011–12 state math exam, up from 52 percent the previous year.
“In my first three years here, I kept hearing the words ‘pass the state assessment.’ With the rest of the school, I set that as my goal,” she says. “Last year, one of things I started realizing, and bringing back to my team, was that these are really low expectations. If you’re setting a goal, that’s what you’re going to get. That truly is what led to our 70-percent grade achieving in the top two categories.”
Overall, Leading Educators reports, students taught by teams led by Leading Educators fellows achieved five times more improvement on state standardized tests than their district counterparts in Kansas City in 2011–12, and 12 times more than their counterparts across the districts they serve in New Orleans.
Although invigorating, this program was not started as an Opportunity Culture project. Lavely’s role misses crucial pieces of the Opportunity Culture Multi-Classroom Leadership model: formal accountability for the results of all the students in her “pod,” and higher pay, within existing budgets, to match the greater number of students she reaches with excellence. Lavely discusses how the lack of pay matching her greater responsibility may ultimately push her out of the classroom, into administration—but how much she would prefer to continue teaching.
With a career path that would allow her to continue leading other teachers without leaving the classroom, and better pay, “this would be the ideal position for me,” Lavely says.
As Leading Educators expands its work, it will focus on helping schools and districts create sustainable, paid leadership opportunities for its leaders, enabling them to advance in their careers while remaining teachers.
Leading Educators: Empowering Teacher-Leaders to Extend Their Reach by Leading Teams was co-authored by Sharon Kebschull Barrett and Jiye Grace Han, with contributions from Public Impact’s Joe Ableidinger, Bryan C. Hassel, and Emily Ayscue Hassel.
Meet Romain Bertrand: middle school math teacher and Opportunity Culture enthusiast. As this school year winds down, he’s already thoroughly looking forward to the next—when he will become a Multi-Classroom Leader at Ranson IB Middle School, taking accountability for the learning results of 700 students. At Ranson, a Project L.I.F.T. school in Charlotte, N.C., Bertrand sees the opportunities of its new Opportunity Culture—to extend the reach of excellent teachers to more students, for more pay, and develop other teachers—giving him and others exactly the sort of recognition and respect he says teachers now sorely lack.
Bertrand grew up in Avignon, in the south of France, the son of teachers who both went on to become principals. After teaching middle school math in France for five years, he came to the U.S. through the Chapel Hill, N.C.-based VIF International Education, which placed him in Charlotte, teaching seventh- and eighth-grade math for five years. “It became obvious after 10 years of teaching that I finally found my groove, and I saw that I could consistently get my students to enjoy math and become passionate about it, and to grow,” says Bertrand (relaxing at right with his children).
Bertrand began working with Teach Charlotte, a six-week summer teaching academy, where he coached teachers, which prepared him for his current job at Ranson IB Middle School as a facilitator. That led to his role on the school design team at Ranson, tasked with redesigning the school to implement an Opportunity Culture in the 2013-14 year. Put a charming French accent in your head, and read what he said to Public Impact’s Grace Han in a May 28 interview:
Q: Tell me about your current job.
A: [Principal Alison] Harris’s vision for my first year was to have me work with new teachers in all subjects. I felt comfortable doing this, and was excited about it. With 28 teachers to coach in all content areas, I was spread too thin, and couldn’t do everything well. This year, I refocused on math and science.
Q: What do you find most rewarding about being a facilitator?
A: The most rewarding thing about this job is the ability to be transformational on a daily basis for both teachers and students. For teachers, it’s transformational through coaching, co-teaching, and planning of resources—helping them grow, or sometimes totally turn around classrooms. I really enjoy that coaching piece, to take people from where they are and try to lift them up. I also find rewarding the ability to teach students “on assignment.” When planning interventions with teachers, we always try to plan around data we have. So I teach students knowing exactly what they need.
Teachers, by working with me in my role and seeing me outside the usual “facilitator” role, it helps grow the culture and respect around my job. It’s really the ability to be transformational at every level, and to be able to measure the impact, work hard, and see people moving forward.
Q: What do you find most frustrating about being a facilitator?
A: I get really frustrated over the lack of recognition—not only just for facilitators but for jobs in education outside of the administrative roles. I find these roles to be underpaid, and people will hold a very low self-esteem. They just feel like society is not recognizing their role. They have to have summer jobs, extra after-school jobs, extra degrees. People cannot be proud about just teaching, and be satisfied with being excellent teachers. The fact that society does not consider teaching on its own as a valid career is the highest level of frustration for me. I work really hard—I work a lot of hours, and I have done a lot of studying. I know I could be paid more doing something else.
I’ve lived in the U.S. for seven years. Here, you hear this all the time about presidents and actors—“teachers are so important.” People praise teachers all the time … and yet, you have a feeling that it will never change unless teachers take the initiative to work with the budget you have, organize things differently, and to make a change.
Q: How did you get involved with the Opportunity Culture/Project L.I.F.T. initiative?
A: Last year, it all started with Ms. Harris telling me that next year, I’ll be the math facilitator, but letting me know that we’re going to have the opportunity to change the way we utilize technology in math. That’s the first part I understood of Opportunity Culture—that we’d leverage technology differently, and incorporate some blended learning.
In the fall, our second big school design team meeting was about staffing and new roles and models. It was a second burst of recognition for me, but tied with some fear. It was so new.
I remember in the meeting when we were trying to draw the blueprint of what Ranson could build in three years, having a feeling that we were drawing a “pod” and ideally what schools should look like when it comes to finding a balance between better serving students and teachers. This meant using technology and time to free MCLs and BLTs [multi-classroom leaders and blended-learning teachers] to plan resources, coach and develop others, provide extra support, expand the impact of stronger teachers, and provide more support for new teachers. I felt all the sudden it was a great way to marry the good things I’d experienced in my current job, but make it systematic across the school.
The key moment for me was to put the three pieces of the puzzle together—strong teachers, developing teachers, and students—and to see how all parts could benefit. Then I knew—this should be something exciting for everyone.
Q: What appealed to you the most about the models (or more broadly, about an Opportunity Culture) as you did the school design work?
A: What appealed to me the most was the ability all of the sudden to design new positions with the purpose of developing teachers better and faster, giving excellent teachers a way to expand their reach, and to better serve students. That triangle was really in my mind at the time.
And the technology will be key—we’re pushing teachers to re-imagine ways you can integrate technology into our jobs. We’re just at the beginning of it at Ranson; I’m interested in seeing how far we can take this. I really believe that this generation is not going to learn the same way we have learned. I really hope it will push us to integrate technology better, and marry it with what our students need the most.
Q: Were you sure you would apply for one of these jobs all along, as you were participating in the school design?
A: I don’t think I was thinking that I would take a new role right away. I’m in a leadership program at Queens University [the School Executive Leadership Academy], and I was thinking at the time I would apply to the AP/principal pool at the end of this school year.
For a while, I also wasn’t sure it was going to happen. I’d never been involved in something where I was writing out job descriptions! It was so new. I didn’t know if this was really going to happen.
As soon as we started talking about these positions, I went to Ranson and I said to myself, “I’m already in a facilitator role, but I’m already trying to be more involved with my teachers in the classroom. My job is not an office job.” I saw an opportunity to really change my current job to be more like an MCL. I said, “I’m going to go all out. I’m going to try to do these actions, and see if students benefit from them, see if teachers grow more if I change my job this way.” If all this happens, maybe this is something I really want to do, and also something I want to help craft.
So beginning in January, I revamped my schedule, and started planning with sixth- and seventh-grade teachers, and started doing what I thought an MCL would do next year. I started putting in place interventions by leveraging technology and doing blended learning with kids at mastery. I utilized that time to do interventions with other students who had not mastered the content. Then I started also doing more co-teaching with my teachers. Previously I would mostly observe and give feedback. But then I said, “I want to help teachers take a huge jump.” So I started weekly co-teaching, and I started seeing the impact compared to the old way of working. I would see students’ and teachers’ growth.
I also saw an impact on myself. I was happier because I was going back to what I really enjoy: teaching.
I think, through this process from January to March, I started getting a sense that I was enjoying this very much. I saw much more growth in students and staff than I’d ever seen before.
But this new role was also very difficult to do.This role is very challenging, and seeing this challenge motivated me to want to do this next year. There was a part of me that had been saying, “Maybe I’m not being ambitious enough if I take an MCL role versus becoming a principal.” Some people said I was lowering my expectations. But I spoke to Ms. Harris, and she said, “You’re not lowering your expectations. Nobody’s done this before; you have a chance to shape how this role will look in the future.” And that really helped me see it differently.
Q: How rigorous were your interviews for the MCL job?
A: The application process was very rigorous, but nothing really surprised me, knowing how [Charlotte] L.I.F.T. does their hiring.
I had to submit data from when I was in the classroom from my last teaching job; I did a teaching video from one of my interventions. I was actually able to use that video with some of my teachers, too, as a coaching tool.
And the first interview was with HR; it was a typical L.I.F.T. behavior interview. The questions were great, like, “How do you give feedback to someone? How do you change someone’s behavior?” They were very aligned with what I’d been facing in my job. To me, it felt good that people were asked these questions to get into these positions. To get someone to work with seven or eight teachers, to get buy-in, to have them accept you to work with their students, to work alongside them—it’s hard. The questions felt very appropriate.
The second interview was with Ranson, and I liked the opportunity to talk with them about this job and what I think I’d do differently, what I envision, what I’d need to do better or more.
It never felt like this was due to me. I never once felt like I was due this job. I always knew that the best person needs to fill a job like this.
Q: What did you think when you found out you got the job?
A: I thought, “Now I really have to deliver!”
I take really seriously that I’ll be responsible for the learning outcomes of 700 students. But something changes when you tie your job description to that literally. As a facilitator, I could have said, “I am helping the school meet its goals.” But now, it’s “These 700 kids are my responsibility.” This is where the high expectations come in.
With the teachers and TAs, we have to set up something really strong and be reflective through the year so that the system can grow, and so that we can meet our goals. They’re all relying on my ability as a leader to set this up properly, keep people engaged and reflective, and also communicate the new structure so that everyone will see the benefit for them from this new model.
I don’t want to become complacent about myself. I’m not going to take this position just to get a raise.
At this point in my career, I’m the most passionate about affecting instruction. Being able to help teachers be better teachers. Helping students receive better instruction. Right now, this is what makes me happy. And it’s what I’m the best at, currently.
For me, the next career step had to be becoming a principal. But as of today, I don’t feel the same urgency to leave to do that. And that urgency was coming from having to pay bills and not being recognized by society—the impression that people don’t think you’re doing something important.
All of the sudden, that’s changed for me. Pay, but also the opportunity to have more impact on more people. A lot of really good teachers—that’s what they want to do. They realize they have that gift, but they don’t just want higher pay. They want higher pay and more influence on other people. What’s great about these models is that these positions are not just higher pay for the same job you’ve always done, but they introduce new ways of working together.
We’re talking to the people who will be blended-learning teachers at Ranson next year, and it’s really fun to see their reactions to what their new job descriptions will be like, what their new responsibilities will be like. This is part of the deal for them. It’s not just the pay raise; it’s the career path.
Q: How different do you anticipate your job will be as an MCL compared to your current job as a facilitator?
A: First, there’s the accountability piece—knowing that for 700 students, you want to put your name down on what has been done for them. That’s huge.
Second, it’s narrowing my role down to a more reasonable group of people: two grade levels [sixth and seventh], six teachers, and two learning coaches, and being able to go deep with them. In the past, I spread myself too thin. Only if I do this well will I manage to have very good results.
Next year, I’ll constantly be teaching, planning, or coaching. I’ll really be streamlining my actions to bring consistency to these three things, and try to do them to the best of my abilities.
Q: How do you believe this work will change the teaching profession in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, and your future in the profession?
A: My dream is that we actually do such a good job with this that in a year or two, CMS will want to replicate this idea everywhere else. But that also we will know by then what the best way to do this is. And the qualities we need to find and grow in people to do this well. I’d really like to be involved in that expansion.
I’m hoping that a year or two from now, students will be doing better, that teachers will be happier doing their jobs, and that positions we created will attract people, retain the best teachers here, and get to the point where the three benefits—creating avenues for excellent teachers, serving students better, helping developing teachers—will be a reality.
This year, we had zero vacancies in math. That’s unheard of. Math is always the hardest subject to staff, and we’re always scrambling to find people in the summer.
I just feel so sure that this is really a great way to move education forward that we haven’t thought about. Or something we just thought about, but never did. Like one of those “wouldn’t it be cool if … ” statements. We’re bringing that to a reality.
I spent two years teaching in a diverse, high-poverty school on the northwest side of Chicago. And I was fortunate enough to say that even with the incredible growth my students showed in my classroom—in my second year, students averaged more than four years of growth—I was not the best teacher in the building.
On the contrary, I worked with teachers who were simply amazing—who had dedicated five to 10 years to this profession, who made strong gains with their students every year, and who served as models for me. They knew how to develop supportive relationships with parents and work with peers collaboratively in ways I was just beginning to understand.
Most of the excellent teachers were founding members of the school, and were extremely invested in it and the students whom they watched grow from kindergarteners to middle-schoolers.
But after giving five years of 14-hour workdays in a high-stakes environment with high expectations and little reward, all of the best teachers, one by one, left during my two-year tenure there.
I was shocked.
My school was high-performing, had fearless leadership, great parents, and terrific support.
And still, I witnessed a mass exodus of the highest-performing teachers I’d ever met, from a strong community of teachers and students.
They felt completely burned out and undervalued. They saw a stark choice between doing what they love and pursuing a sustainable future—starting families, buying homes, and moving up in their careers.
Through my job now at Public Impact, I’ve been working for the past year with school design teams of teachers in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg system. When we first started working with these teachers, they were not thinking about career advancement within the classroom or being paid more in a financially sustainable way over a whole career.
When we asked them to think about new school models, many of them were immediately wary, uneasy about accepting the task of thinking outside the box to redesign their school and trusting that their ideas could influence the decision-makers to make positive change.
All of this made me wonder—how do we ask that of teachers who have spent their careers trying to find ways to reach students within the confines of a system beyond their control?
That’s when we realized that as much as we must communicate the students’ urgent need for more excellent teachers, we must also communicate the huge sense of urgency we feel to change the teachers’ profession—because opportunities for teachers mean opportunities for students.
Through that lens, the co-directors of Public Impact asked what resonated most for me about our Opportunity Culture initiative and what I thought would make other teachers who were excellent or striving for excellence receptive.
Here’s what I told them: As a teacher, I would love for someone to ask me to imagine what it would be like to work in a place that ensures that all teachers have the chance to improve their craft, and be rewarded for getting better; a place that lets all teachers make the best use of their talents by focusing their time and energy on parts of their job that they do best; a place that lets great teachers multiply their impact by giving more students access to their teaching for more pay; and a place that offers excellent teachers leadership roles that are not far removed from students.
I would love for someone to ask me to imagine being part of a profession that recruits the best and the brightest, and has a reputation for developing and retaining top talent through all of these opportunities, plus salaries that can compete against those of doctors, lawyers, and engineers. Essentially, this means asking teachers to imagine a profession that, rather than being laden with things that keep people from becoming a teacher, is full of hard-to-refuse opportunities. That would make me want to say, “Yes. How?!” and set me up to be more receptive to the models we propose.
I truly believe that this kind of job, with this kind of potential for career advancement and higher pay, is the only thing that would have kept all of those great teachers in my school.
And this is the kind of profession I want to look forward to when I go back into the classroom.
Great teachers deserve this profession, and they have every right to imagine it, want it, and watch it become reality.
And so—what if we invested in the ingredient that has always made the difference, through endless reforms that focused on everything else: excellent teachers?
Jiye Grace Han was a 2011 national finalist for the Sue Lehmann Award for Excellence in Teaching, Teach For America’s highest honor.
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