Teachers & Leaders

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With an excellent teacher versus an average teacher, students make about an extra half-year of progress every year—closing achievement gaps fast, leaping ahead to become honors students, and surging forward like top international peers. But existing strategies alone will never fill our 3 million classrooms with teachers as good as today’s top 25 percent.

Schools can fix this by extending the reach of excellent teachers using job redesign and technology. New school models also offer all teachers career opportunities. Advancement allows greater impact on students and more pay—within budget. We call this an Opportunity Culture. Click here for tools and resources to reach all students with excellence.

Featured Teachers and Leaders Resources

In schools, nothing matters more than the quality of the teachers and leaders. When students have great teachers, they learn dramatically more than they do with less-effective instructors. When schools have great leaders, their students excel, even when they start behind. Yet too often, policies and management practices in K-12 education stand in the way of great teaching and leadership.
Our work in this area focuses on policies and approaches to recruiting, selecting, evaluating, developing, compensating, and retaining high-performing teachers and leaders. Follow links to the left to see our work in these areas. Below, we highlight a few recent works.

An Opportunity Culture for Teaching and Learning: Introduction

OC Intro small thumbnailTo understand an Opportunity Culture, start here: For excellent teachers and those aspiring to excellence, and for administrative or education policy leaders, this brief provides an overview of how an Opportunity Culture can help teachers have the well-paid, empowered profession they deserve—while helping many more students succeed.


Recruiting in an Opportunity Culture

Recruiting thumbnailWhat brings excellent teachers in droves to apply for jobs in hard-to-staff schools? Project L.I.F.T. in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District started by offering a complete Opportunity Culture package of career advancement roles, then advertised those roles early, often, and clearly—leading to a strong uptick in both the quantity and quality of applicants for teaching roles at schools that previously saw many positions go unfilled. L.I.F.T. leaders explain how they did it in this brief vignette, with an accompanying video of principals and district leaders sharing how an Opportunity Culture attracts great teachers.

Reaching All Students with Excellent STEM Teachers

STEM cover thumbnailIn the U.S., STEM subjects—science, technology, engineering, and math—face urgent needs for great STEM teachers and well-educated students. An Opportunity Culture can help by extending the reach of excellent STEM teachers already in our schools and creating a teaching profession that attracts and retains these teachers through higher pay, within regular budgets, and multiple advancement opportunities. The Education Leaders’ Brief summarizes the grim facts about STEM employment and learning in the U.S. today, emerging efforts to stem the shortage of skilled teachers, and how an Opportunity Culture can help. The companion slide deck provides more statistics and graphics to explain the huge need for more and better STEM teachers; how to attract and retain great STEM teachers; and how to extend the reach of the excellent STEM teachers we already have, paying them much more within regular budgets, and giving them opportunities to lead and develop peers on the job.

Teacher Pay and Career Paths in an Opportunity Culture: A Practical Policy Guide

Joyce Career report coverThis guide shows how districts can design teacher career paths that will keep excellent teachers in the classroom and extend their reach to more students, for more pay, within budget. When districts design these paths, they create opportunities for excellent teachers to reach more students directly and by leading teaching teams, for solid teachers to contribute to excellence immediately, and for all teachers to receive the support and development they deserve. The full guide walks a district through the organizing steps and details of designing Opportunity Culture pay and career paths that fit its needs and values. It includes an overview of key Opportunity Culture concepts, graphics and explanations detailing new school models and roles, and assistance for evaluating the impact of different compensation design choices. The steps guide districts to ensuring financial sustainability and designing a complete career lattice. The summary provides a brief overview and graphics that show how pay and career paths work at a glance.

Seizing Opportunity at the Top II: State Policies to Reach Every Student With Excellent Teachers

Seizing II cover thumbnailTo ensure that every student has access to excellent teaching consistently, states and districts must help excellent teachers extend their reach to far more students, directly and by leading teaching teams, and earn far more, within budget. How can states craft the policies to support this? Public Impact explains how in this checklist and brief. These update our earlier working paper Seizing Opportunity at the Top, based on our experience collaborating with several districts and hundreds of teachers and administrators, and analysis of their states’ policies. States must get these policies right for the sake of the outstanding and committed teachers in schools implementing Opportunity Culture models—and their students. Read more…

Lacking Leaders: The Challenges of Principal Recruitment, Selection, and Placement

Lacking Leaders cover thumbnailIn this report for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, Public Impact takes an in-depth look at principal hiring practices in five urban districts. Despite making improvements, our primary finding is that principal hiring practices continue to fall short of what is needed, effectively causing needy schools to lose out on leaders with the potential to be great. So what to do? Districts must improve their hiring practices to take a more active approach to principal recruitment, evaluate candidates against the competencies and skills that successful principals are known to possess, carefully design a placement process that matches schools’ needs with candidates’ strengths, and continually evaluate hiring efforts to ensure that they are effectively recruiting, selecting, and placing the leaders that schools depend on for success. Our research also suggests that better hiring practices alone are only part of the solution; districts must also re-imagine the principal’s role so that it is a job that talented leaders want and are equipped to execute successfully. See the companion infographic for a quick summary.

Projected Statewide Impact of “Opportunity Culture” School Models

NC mapThis brief estimates the impact of a statewide implementation of Opportunity Culture models, using North Carolina as an example. Impacts estimated include student learning outcomes, gross state product, teacher pay, and other career characteristics, and state income tax revenue. Estimates indicate the potential for a statewide transition to Opportunity Culture models to provide a brighter future for students, teachers, and the state’s economy.

Giving Every Student Access to Excellent Teachers: A Vision for Focusing Federal Investments in Education

CAP report coverIn a new brief written for the Center for American Progress, Public Impact explains why and how the federal government must focus states and districts on giving every student access to excellent teachers. Public Impact suggests four ways the federal government can dramatically increase access to excellent teaching and catalyze a transformation of America’s public education system: 1.) Structure competitive grants to induce districts and states to shift to transformative school designs that reach more students with excellent teachers and the teams they lead; 2.) Reorient existing formula grants to encourage transition to new classroom models that extend the reach of great teachers, both directly and through leading teaching teams; 3.) Create a focal point for federal research and development efforts; 4.) Create and enforce a new civil right to excellent teachers. Read the press release to learn more, or watch the panel discussion from the presentation of the report.

A Better Blend: A Vision for Boosting Student Outcomes with Digital Learning

A Better Blend cover smallBlended learning that combines digital instruction with live, accountable teachers holds unique promise to improve student outcomes dramatically. This brief explains how schools can use blended learning to encourage improvements in digital instruction, trans­form teaching into a highly paid, opportunity-rich career that extends the reach of excellent teachers to all students and teaching peers, and improve student learning at large scale. We call this a “better blend”: combining high-quality digital learning and excellent teaching.

An Opportunity Culture for Teaching and Learning: Moving Toward a Highly Paid, High-Impact Profession

This two-page report speaks directly to excellent teachers and those aspiring to excellence to introduce the concepts of an Opportunity Culture and its benefits for teachers and staff, explaining why they should advocate for new school models and policies that support an Opportunity Culture. A related slide presentation for school and district leaders, with speaker notes or without, helps them explain what teaching and learning could look like in an Opportunity Culture.

Extending the Reach of Excellent Teachers – Infographic

infographic-tnWhy does every child need consistent access to excellent teachers, and how can we, today, extend the reach of the excellent teachers our nation already has? Public Impact teamed up with designers at Column Five to develop this infographic with the answers. It illustrates four of the more than 20 “reach extension” models that use job redesign and technology to put excellent teachers in charge of every student’s learning. It also highlights the role of extending these teachers’ reach in building an “Opportunity Culture” in which excellent teachers, other educators, and students can excel. See the full infographic here.

Opportunity at the Top: How America’s Best Teachers Could Close the Gaps, Raise the Bar, and Keep Our Nation Great

OpportunityTHUMB80Even if current reform efforts to recruit more great teachers and dismiss low performers were wildly successful, nearly two-thirds of children still would not have great teachers. But if we add high-performer retention and reach extension, 87 percent of classes could be taught by gap-closing, bar-raising teachers—in a mere half decade. This outcome is within our reach—but only if we vastly expand the opportunities for top teachers. Read more…


Career Paths that Respect Teachers: More Pay & Time to Collaborate, Lead, Reach More Students

Teachers: If you are an excellent teacher or one who aspires to excellence, this two-page report explains how schools can use redesigned jobs and career paths to help you stay enthusiastic about teaching, reach more students, and lead your peers, for more pay. With input from teachers and other experts, Public Impact has published numerous school models that offer different possibilities for time use and role flexibility, making the best use of great teachers’ valuable time and returning the respect you deserve by paying more for reaching more students with excellence.

3X for All: Extending the Reach of Education’s Best

Instead of just trying to recruit more great teachers, what if we could reach dramatically more children with the great teachers we already have? This report explores ways we could redesign teachers’ roles and use technology to give millions more students access to the best teachers. Read more…


Teachers in the Age of Digital Instruction

Education Reform for Digital EraIn Fordham’s new book Education Reform for the Digital Era, Bryan C. Hassel and Emily Ayscue Hassel’s opening chapter proposes that “digital education needs excellent teachers and that a first-rate teaching profession needs digital education.” In the digital future, teacher effectiveness will matter even more than it does today. While the roles of teachers and other adults will change dramatically, what will increasingly differentiate outcomes for schools, states, and nations is how well responsible adults carry out the more complex instructional tasks. At the same time, technology has enormous transformative potential to extend the reach of excellent teachers to vastly more students, to help teaching attract and retain the best, and to boost the effectiveness of average teachers. To realize that promise, though, the nation needs new staffing models, significant policy changes, and a stronger dose of political will to change. Read the chapter here, and watch Bryan Hassel on a webcast of the release event here. The authors also penned a related commentary that appears here.

How Digital Learning Can (and must) Help Excellent Teachers Reach More Children

new Innosight LogoIn this blog post for the Innosight Institute (now the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation), Bryan Hassel and Emily Ayscue Hassel argue that “schools – and nations – that excel in the digital age will be those that use digital tools both to make teaching more manageable for the average teacher, and to give massively more students access to excellent teachers.” While digital learning can help solid teachers become more effective, one of its greatest promises is to enable top teachers – those whose students already achieve well over a year’s worth of growth – to educate more students by freeing up their time, allowing them to teach students who are not physically present, and capturing their teaching prowess by recording videos or helping develop smart learning software.

Models for Extending the Reach of Excellent Teachers

BOCAT-website-transparent 150Public Impact has posted brief descriptions of more than 20 school models that put excellent teachers in charge of more children’s learning. The models describe how schools can adjust teaching roles and use technology to reach every child with excellent teachers—the 20 to 25 percent who make well over a year of progress each year on average with their students. Public Impact will add examples and detail, including job descriptions, evaluation rubrics and financial considerations. All will be available for free on OpportunityCulture.org. Models were made possible by Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Joyce Foundation, and the Colorado Legacy Foundation.

Measuring Teacher and Leader Performance: Cross-Sector Lessons for Excellent Evaluations

Performance_front_cvr_80A recent national push to use performance evaluations for critical personnel decisions has highlighted the shortcomings of our current systems and increased the urgency to improve them dramatically. This report, written with support from the Joyce Foundation, summarizes best practices and research from other sectors into six steps for education leaders who want accurate, reliable, and meaningful information about educators’ performance. Read more…


Shooting for Stars: Cross-Sector Lessons for Retaining High-Performing Educators

stars_thumbnail_bigThis report, written with support from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, identifies four common strategies employed by other sectors to disproportionately retain high performers and discusses how committed education leaders could begin applying these strategies right now. Read more…



Using Competency-Based Evaluation to Drive Teacher Excellence: Lessons from Singapore

singapore_thumbnail_bigThe complete recipe for Singapore’s educational success is not public, but one element stands out: the development and thorough use of performance-linked “competencies” to measure, reward, and develop teacher performance. This report, written with support from The Joyce Foundation, explores Singapore’s successful teacher evaluation and development system—recognized by its education leadership and teachers as effective and fair. Read more…


Tenure_80Teacher Tenure Reform: Applying Lessons from the Civil Service and Higher Education

Could redesigned K-12 teacher tenure actually improve student learning? Could it help to grow the size and power of an elite teaching corps that reaches far more children? This paper examines lessons from higher education and the civil service and applies fresh thinking to offer new “elite” and “inclusive” tenure designs and a framework for policymakers who want to make tenure meaningful. Today, K-12 tenure is granted to nearly all teachers, with almost no criteria, and within the first few years of teaching. As a tool to strengthen our nation’s schools and children’s prospects, tenure has failed. The culture of tenure and costs of associated pay scales also have created a nearly universal glass ceiling for the best teachers. But discussions about tenure nearly always fall into the “keep it or scrap it” camps. This paper inserts level-headed thinking into the K-12 tenure debate.  A brief presentation, prepared for the Joyce Foundation, outlines key findings

Preparing for Growth: Human Capital Innovations in Charter Public Schools

Charter Innovation ThumbnailMany have suggested that charter schools can be key agents in leading dramatic improvements in public education. However, the small number of highly-successful charter schools and charter management organizations currently in operation throughout the country will have to grow much faster in order to meet this challenge. To achieve that growth, they also will need a strong supply of great teachers and leaders. This report, for the Center for American Progress, by Christi Chadwick and Julie Kowal, looks at six leading charter management organizations (CMOs) – Green Dot, High Tech High, IDEA, KIPP, Rocketship, and YES Prep – and the strategies they have implemented to build the supply of high quality teachers and principals in their schools. The paper also presents barriers and challenges that still remain for these CMOs, as well as promising opportunities to support more rapid future growth.  A brief presentation, prepared for the Joyce Foundation, outlines key findings.

Beyond Classroom Walls: Developing Innovative Work Roles for Teachers

staffing_models-thumbnailThe job of “teacher” in most schools today remains centered on full-time classroom responsibilities that are defined by the location, timing, and schedule of the school day and a one-teacher-per-classroom model. But particularly in today’s budget climate, interest in quality-focused job redesigns is increasing among forward-thinking state, district, and charter school leaders. In this report, prepared by Julie Kowal and Dana Brinson for the Center for American Progress, we profile two organizations—the Rocketship Education network of charter schools and the Fairfax County, VA school district— that have redesigned the job of teacher to provide new types of leadership opportunities and let great teachers reach larger numbers of students.  A brief presentation, prepared for the Joyce Foundation, outlines key findings. Read more…

Competencies for Turnaround Success Series

compthumbsmallPublic Impact has developed a series of resources designed to support school turnarounds. The series includes guides and toolkits that help select turnaround leaders and teachers based on the competencies–or patterns of thinking, feeling, speaking, and acting–that enable them to be successful in turnarounds.



Importing Leaders for School Turnarounds: Lessons and Opportunities

Importing Leaders for School Turnarounds-1One of the biggest challenges in education today is identifying talented candidates to successfully lead turnarounds of persistently low-achieving schools. Evidence suggests that the traditional principal pool is already stretched to capacity and cannot supply enough leaders to fix failing schools. But potentially thousands of leaders capable of managing successful turnarounds work outside education, in nonprofit and health organizations, the military, and the private sector. If only a fraction of those leaders used their talents in education, we could increase the supply of school turnaround leaders significantly. In this report prepared by Public Impact for the University of Virginia’s Partnership for Leaders in Education, Julie Kowal and Emily Hassel explore lessons about when and how organizations in other sectors import leaders – including how they tempt people away, train them, and foster their success – to inform efforts by state and local leaders to import talent for failing schools.

Re-Slicing the Teacher Compensation Pie

Re-Slicing the Teacher PiePerformance pay, hard-to-staff incentives, and other special payments combined make up only 1% of the teacher pay “pie” nationally. With school budgets tight, the prospects of new, long-term infusions of funds for alternative forms of teacher compensation are bleak. For districts and states eager to reform teacher pay, then, the only viable, sustainable strategy is to “re-slice the teacher compensation pie”—reducing the amount of funding that goes to reward master’s degrees, experience beyond the first five or so years, and other qualifications that research suggests are unrelated to student learning. This presentation shows how re-slicing—whether modest or bold—could dramatically increase the resources available to pay teachers for their contributions to student learning.

How Should States Define Teacher Effectiveness?

Teacher effectivenessAs evidence continues to pile up about the central importance of effective teaching, states nationwide are rethinking how they define and measure the effects individual teachers have on educational outcomes. In this slide deck, Public Impact sets out some guiding principles for states entering this design process, including: (1) defining a teacher’s “effect” as the product of her level of effectiveness and her reach: the number of students she affects; (2) defining teacher effectiveness based on student learning outcomes and behaviors linked to outcomes; (3) using rigorous research about top teachers – not focus groups or expert opinion – to determine what behaviors to include in the definition; and (4) examining deeper competencies – such as achievement orientation – not just more easily observable teacher behaviors. States can play a central role in driving strong measures of teacher effectiveness by requiring measures that truly differentiate performers; shining a bright light on how different districts and schools are doing on improving effectiveness; creating a state-mandated “floor” for teacher evaluation systems; and driving an ongoing effort to improve the definition and measurement of teacher effectiveness. This presentation was prepared with the support of the Joyce Foundation as part of a larger project examining ways to reform teacher evaluation, tenure and other systems to achieve more “selective retention.”

Connecting the Dots: Building a System that Improves Teacher Quality

connect_dotsthumb2[pdf] This report summarizes the results of recent research and practice on how to improve teacher supply, distribution and evaluation systems. The overwhelming finding is that our current practices and policies provide inadequate support for high quality teaching. Most teachers are trained, selected, placed, evaluated and compensated under staffing models that were not built to ensure that teachers, especially those with the neediest students, are effective at promoting student learning. The report offers ten national imperatives to create a teacher management system that truly works for students: 1) improve the pipeline; 2) identify effectiveness; 3) screen effectively; 4) hire strategically; 5) pay for contribution; 6) support new hires; 7) develop advanced skills; 8) reconsider tenure; 9) rework retirement; and 10) leverage talent.

Public Impact

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Opportunity Culture

How a new focus on America’s best teachers could close the achievement gaps, raise the bar, and keep our nation great. Read More...

Going Exponential

How could every low-income child have access to the very best schools by 2025? Click here to find out.

Try, Try Again

Triple Your Turnaround Success Rate... Without Getting Better at Turning Around Schools. Find out how here.

3X for All

What would it take for every child to have an outstanding teacher, every year? Click here to see our report.


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