Subject Specialization (In-Person Teacher)

The best teachers teach one or two priority subjects, leaving other subjects and many noninstructional tasks to teammates. A likely combination would be subject pairs: 1) math/science and 2) language arts/social studies. A third set of adults—learning coaches, teaching assistants, or other designated adults—supervise students during homeroom, other unstructured time, and transitions, and they cover most administrative work and other noninstructional tasks. All collaborate as a team to ensure student learning and development. For example, elementary teachers now spend about 8 of their nearly 32 instructional hours weekly on math and science combined. An excellent teacher could teach three times the current student load and retain up to 8 school-day planning hours weekly. A second set of teachers could teach language arts and social studies, on which teachers now spend about 14 hours weekly, retaining up to 4 planning hours weekly. Higher pay for excellent teachers can be funded by lower pay for the learning coaches/assistants and the elimination of some non-classroom instructional specialist positions. Reach Effect: approximately 100%–300% more students reached with excellent teachers. Note: Subjects for specialization will vary based on school priorities and available teachers; the math/science and language arts/social studies pairs are just one example.

Examples of schools and school networks that extend excellent teachers’ reach using subject specialization include Rocketship Education and Ingenuity Prep.

See our case study on Rocketship Education:

  • Rocketship Education: Pioneering Charter Network Innovates Again, Bringing Tech Closer to Teachers details how Rocketship, a pioneering, rapidly expanding charter school network, planned to refine its blended-learning model in the 2013–14 year. It intended to give teachers more control over the students’ digital learning and hoped to further individualize the teaching. Rocketship began as a Rotation + Elementary Specialization model with an academic dean to oversee teachers’ instructional training and improvement. In its effort to refine the model, the network tried using a flex model in some schools and eliminating the dean position. Future changes are anticipated; watch for updates to see how these changes do and don’t achieve the network’s goals for student learning.

More detail on these models:

 Subject Specialization (Elementary) School Model

 In-Person Rotation + Subject Specialization (Elementary) School Model

 Financial Planning for Elementary Subject Specialization: Describes how teachers in this school model may earn more, sustainably, with calculations of savings and costs showing how schools could increase teacher pay up to 43%, without increasing class sizes and within existing budgets. See more about this model here.

 Teacher and Staff Selection, Development, & Evaluation ToolkitThis toolkit includes job descriptions, competencies, and companion tools that may be used to select, evaluate, and develop teachers and staff. These materials are built for six of the more than 20 school models described here. The jobs included in the toolkit cover most of the other school models as well. Some schools may combine school models, and in turn will need to alter the job descriptions and other materials accordingly. Schools must adapt these materials to fit each school setting and to incorporate additional selection, evaluation, and development priorities.

Example Schedules for Rotation + Specialization

These example schedules show how top teachers can reach more students with blended learning and specialization – and gain planning time.

 Schedule Example—1/4 Time in Digital Learning Per Subject—Elementary Rotation + Specialization
 A Day in the Life—Elementary Subject Specialization + Time-Technology Rotation

Example Schedule for Specialization

 Schedule Example: Elementary Subject Specialization

Public Impact encourages the sharing and copying of these materials. Please include “©2012 Public Impact” and “OpportunityCulture.org” on all pages where material from these documents appears.

View table with links to all school models