Organization of the Teaching Workforce

Highly effective teachers, particularly those who work in hard to staff subjects, are a scarce resource. Districts and states should assign teachers and manage the overall teaching workforce to maximize the value of this scarce resource. It is essential to get the most talented educators in front of the students that need the most support and to minimize staff turnover in the highest-need schools and classrooms. Teacher effectiveness, teacher allocation, and teacher retention, are important human capital drivers that have a direct impact on students, schools, and district budgets. With this in mind, teacher assignments should be made on a voluntary basis—based on the agreement of both the teacher and the leadership at the school—and based on the teacher’s accomplishments and likelihood of accomplishing more at the school where he or she is seeking an assignment.

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Transfer and Assignment: Alternative practices should place a premium on demonstrated effectiveness in all teacher transfer decisions and eliminate assignment procedures based solely on seniority. In addition, minimizing or eliminating “forced placement” of teachers who cannot successfully interview for an assignment, regardless of tenure status, and protecting underperforming schools from receiving forced placement of teachers who do not want to be placed there should be pursued by district leaders.

  • Chicago Public Schools – This school district has done away with involuntary transfers and forced placement in favor of a system that requires both principal and teacher agreement. Teachers and principals both report high degrees of satisfaction with this policy.
  • Colorado – The Colorado Ensuring Quality Instruction Through Educator Effectiveness Act was enacted in 2010. This law reforms how Colorado districts evaluate teacher effectiveness and requires them to use effectiveness data in making decisions regarding human capital. 

Flexible Assignments and Staffing Patterns: Use of alternative staffing practices can create new opportunities for both entry level and master teachers. Residential pre-teaching assignments create new job categories for entry level teaching employees who work under the direct supervision of a master teacher of record. This structure also extends the classroom reach of the master teacher across multiple classrooms and to a greater number of students. Other alternative staffing practices include those that make greater use of dual enrollment, online, and blended learning opportunities. These alternatives create new and more cost-effective staffing patterns; for example, community college staff can deliver instruction via dual enrollment or online learning programs, often at a low price point to districts.

  • Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) – The AUSL approach is a turnaround model built on two key features: a rigorous teacher training program and a top-to-bottom school transformation strategy. The training program is a one-year residency in a Chicago Public Schools classroom. Residents also earn a master’s degree and upon completion of the program are placed in AUSL turnaround schools.
  • Boston Teacher Residency – This residency is a one-year master’s program that places individuals in a Boston Public Schools classroom alongside a mentor teacher. Upon completion of the residency, individuals commit to serving the district for three years and are placed in a school where they will continue to receive comprehensive support to ensure their success in the classroom.
  • Dual enrollment, online, and blended learning strategies present significant opportunities for innovations in high school staffing models. These models also have great implications for productivity. For more please see Use of Technology in Teaching and Learning.

Class size and student-teacher ratios: Rethinking student-teacher ratios to give schools and districts the flexibility to adjust class sizes in a smart and targeted way can help districts and states save money without negatively impacting students. Research demonstrates a boost in student achievement for children through grade three when class sizes are reduced by a significant amount to fewer than 18 students. A similar impact for students in the other grades has not been supported by research. Class size reduction efforts, therefore, should be focused where they are most likely to improve student learning—during the early grades. Increasing class size for the later grades, and placing highly effective teachers in these classes while compensating them for their additional responsibilities, warrants serious consideration. 

Flexible grouping: Flexible grouping of students and teachers is a strategy growing in practice. Some schools are implementing strategic approaches to grouping students across classrooms and grades in order to address their learning needs, while others are implementing flexible teacher groupings that serve to create different staffing practices and opportunities for teachers.

  • The New American Academy – This elementary school is a New York City Department of Education Innovation Zone (iZone) pilot school, and is designed to provide a new way to schedule time and organize staffing with the goal of increasing student achievement. The school places 60 students in a single classroom with four teachers (one is a master teacher, the other three are associate or apprentice teachers, and all are bilingual). These teachers follow their students from kindergarten through the fifth grade to build strong relationships. This staffing structure is designed to support differentiated instruction and encourages students to progress at their own pace. Relative to traditional New York City staffing models, it is estimated that this approach saves between one-half and one full-time employee. Additional link here.
  • Ashley Park Elementary – This school in Charlotte, North Carolina implements the Family Model to organize students and teachers around student learning levels and individual learning needs. Under this model, teachers are strategically grouped into grade-level families and assigned a set of students and classrooms. These teacher groups work collaboratively to determine which students need what type of instruction and who will teach them, based on their learning needs. Collaborative planning, data-driven decision making, and inclusion, are underlying strategies utilized to support this Family Model approach. Additional link here

Organization of Traditional School Schedules: The current school year, week, and day are organized according to outmoded, inefficient, and unproductive principles. Though there are many examples of such inefficiencies, none is more out of date than the 185-day teacher work year and the corresponding 175-day student work year. Modernizing the school and teacher year so that teacher job expectations are similar to those of other professions, and expanding the school year, week, and day to meet a wider range of student needs and interests should be considered by districts. Action in this area will also enable teachers to work under new professional expectations that permit more time for team work and preparation, and will extend student contact time through shared services with agencies outside of the school system to create greater flexibility in the teacher work day.

  • Generation Schools Network – The Generation Schools model has redesigned the way its schools organize human capital and time. By staggering teacher work and vacation schedules, Generation Schools are able to expand the school day and year, decrease class size for Foundation (core) courses, and create more time for teacher collaboration, without increasing costs. Additional link here.
  • The Massachusetts Expanded Learning Time Initiative – This initiative expands school time by at least 300 hours per year with the goals of improving student outcomes, broadening enrichment opportunities, and improving instruction. Nineteen schools in nine districts currently expand learning time for more than 10,000 students.

Reduction in Force: Layoffs should be a last resort, but when they are necessary, districts should work with teachers and their unions to prioritize student learning—in particular the learning of high-need students—and avoid simplistic approaches like laying off only the most senior or most junior teachers. “Last-in first-out” approaches do not allow this kind of strategic, collaborative approach. In the short term, districts should work with teachers and their unions to use fair and objective data that are currently available to make reductions in force decisions. For instance, districts might first lay off teachers on the basis of unsatisfactory evaluation ratings, chronic absenteeism, or not having been able to secure a teaching position after being given opportunities to interview over a reasonable period of time; they might also protect layoffs of teachers who work in high-need schools, subject areas, or fields. In the long term, districts should work with teachers and their unions to design a system that considers all relevant criteria, with an emphasis on teacher effectiveness, based on multiple measures including student learning.

  • Some states and districts, including Arizona, New York, and Los Angeles Unified School District, have taken steps to reshape how reduction in force decisions are made. These efforts provide lessons learned, regarding the strengths and weakness of these efforts, and show that there is movement in this area.
  • Colorado’s Ensuring Quality Instruction Through Educator Effectiveness Act – This law was enacted in 2010 and reshapes how teachers are evaluated, hired, and placed in schools. It requires mutual consent hirings and includes language regarding teachers that have been reduced; they have the longer of two hiring cycles or one year to find a mutual consent placement. After twelve month on unassigned status, teachers are placed on unpaid leave. Additional link here

Additional Resources:

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