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This hand prioritizes teaching effectiveness while supporting the district in transitioning to the Common Core, including investments in technology, curriculum, and professional development for teachers and principals.
Many districts do not have the technology infrastructure needed to fully support online Common Core assessments. Consider making an investment across the district to make technology more robust and up-to-date to meet not just Common Core assessment requirements but the needs of today’s students.
WARNING: The transition to the Common Core requires many simultaneous investments across the district—from technology infrastructure to professional development for teachers and principals to curriculum.
LCFF mandates that average class sizes not exceed 24 (or bargained level) in K-3, and that the district demonstrates it is progressing toward that goal if it cannot be met in year 1. Districts receive a 10.4% base rate adjustment for K-3 students only if they meet this criteria. The cost on this card represents moving class size averages by 2 students in year 1 of transition.
WARNING: As districts move toward the 24:1 (or bargained level) average class size, they can still be strategic in how they organize and flexibly group students and teachers who have the necessary expertise to provide periods of individual or small group attention, as long as they maintain the average class size goal across each school (for grades K-3).
With the transition to the Common Core, it's critical for districts to provide the necessary support to teachers and principals to ensure a successful implementation.
In today's schools we ask our principals to play many roles—Chief Instructional leader, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Human Resources Officer and more, but most districts provide very little professional development for principals. The most effective professional development is tailored to individual needs and is job-embedded.
LCFF mandates that districts establish a Parent Advisory Committee (PAC), including an English learner PAC if the district exceeds 15% EL, to act as a conduit for which the district can communicate with and get feedback from parents about the LCAP goals and priorities.
WARNING: Districts may be able to do this at little to no additional cost.
The best way to ensure that your district has high-quality teachers is to hire them in the first place. Most districts do not invest enough in their teacher recruitment programs and hence fail to facilitate a selection and assignment process that allows school leaders to hire teachers with the right experience and capability for the job.
While hiring high-quality candidates is critical, providing growth opportunities and on-the-job training are also important factors in retention.
Current compensation systems reward experience and education levels, neither of which is highly correlated to improved performance. Instead, compensation can be restructured to leverage your strongest teachers to serve as coaches and improve overall teaching effectiveness.
Keep in mind this example is illustrative only—comprehensive compensation reform should link rewards to increased performance and contribution at all levels. In addition, adjustment to teacher contracts may involve negotiating with the union.
WARNING: Research results are mixed on the impact of various “performance-based” teacher pay approaches. Compensation system redesign should be undertaken carefully, motivating contribution and performance at all levels.
Time for teachers to purposefully collaborate around instruction and student learning is an important driver of teaching quality and school improvement. Research shows that teaching effectiveness improves when teams of teachers and expert coaches can collaborate for 90+ minutes per week around ongoing student work and assessment data and use this information to continually adjust instruction.
Strong school leaders are a key component of high performing schools. Fellowship programs increase the pipeline for high-capacity principals.
A strong leader who creates a culture of achievement is a critical success factor for turning around low-performing schools. Similarly, a core group of high-performing teachers can help improve overall teaching effectiveness. Stipends for additional responsibilities, and opportunities to work with outstanding colleagues can attract high performers that are essential to improved school performance.
WARNING: Some districts do this without an increase in costs. Consider identifying your strongest principals and encouraging them to move to the 25% lowest performing schools for a 0% cost.
Research shows that teaching effectiveness improves when teams of teachers and expert coaches collaborate for 90+ minutes per week around ongoing student work and assessment data and use this information to continually adjust instruction. Collaborative time will be even more important to support teachers as the Common Core is implemented.
Many districts may be able to find this time at no cost by creating new schedules. Consider the alternative card, “Restructure the school day to provide 60 additional minutes of collaborative planning.”
A framework for defining high-quality teaching, a consistent process for evaluating performance and contribution, easy access to a broad variety of data on individual teachers, and training of central office staff are all critical for principals to accurately evaluate their staff and to support their development.
Actual student impact will be less if you do not also choose to invest in professional development for principals on high-quality teacher evaluation, as well as in school leader staff to add time for teacher evaluation and support.
A successful transition to the Common Core requires many simultaneous investments across the district—from technology infrastructure to professional development for teachers and principals, to curriculum.
Research has shown that not all curriculum labled as “Common Core Aligned” actually is. Before making an investment in new curriculum, teachers and curriculum developers should carefully vet the new materials.
Extended learning time can raise student achievement if it is targeted to core instruction with high-quality teachers who are expert in critical subject and instructional areas. Consider focusing this time to better meet the needs of your English learners, low income, and foster youth students.
Extending learning time can be costly. Ensure that the schools in which you invest have leaders and teaching staff who can deliver high-quality instruction to struggling students.
WARNING: This card includes an increase in teacher compensation, facilities cost, etc., associated with keeping these schools open longer.
Collective bargaining often requires layoffs of the most junior, lowest paid teachers first, resulting in the elimination of more teaching positions and sometimes high-potential individuals. Laying off based on teacher performance spreads the impact more evenly across the entire salary range and ensures that students continue to be taught by the most effective teachers.
Implementing this solution requires that administrators have evaluated teachers rigorously, accurately, and on time. Consider also: “Invest to implement and build capacity for a teacher evaluation and data system.”
WARNING: Estimate assumes base of 3% reduction in teaching force, so depending on your choices, this total savings % may differ.
In many districts, teacher and employee contracts provide yearly “step” increases based on years of service, with no link to effectiveness or contribution. Teachers who have been rated unsatisfactory should not receive these raises until their performance has improved. Consider coupling this with investment in the teacher evaluation system.
Keep in mind this is a step toward restructuring the teaching job where rewards link to contribution. In addition, adjustment to teacher contracts may involve negotiating with the union.
Although most budgets will be increasing under LCFF, districts are still faced with difficult tradeoffs. Replacing automatic salary increases with more targeted incentives can help districts find more dollars to use towards higher impact investments like collaborative planning time with strong leadership and expert support to build teaching effectiveness.
Your individual district context will dictate variations on these themes as you sort through what you can target in the short and long-term. What is important is that even as budgets are easing, you see these cards as critical tradeoffs that can get you closer to reform – and can help decrease the pressure to reinstate cuts you made in previous years.
As you contemplate controversial changes (such as changes to compensation), you'll need to consider your political capital. Changes will be more palatable with clear communication of the decision process and corresponding gains. Developing a sequenced approach over several budget cycles will allow you to communicate your goals, build consensus, and avoid trying to introduce too many changes at once.