After a year of piloting new staffing models that extend the reach of excellent teachers and their teams to more students, for more pay, the Syracuse City School District, in partnership with the Syracuse Teachers Association, has expanded its Opportunity Culture initiative in 2015–16 to four more schools. The initiative began in 2014–15 in four of the highest-need schools in Syracuse, which is New York’s fifth-largest school district.
“In the SCSD we are committed to providing leadership pathways for excellent teachers who want to remain in the classroom,” Superintendent Sharon Contreras said. “Opportunity Culture allows us to explore innovative ways for our most experienced and best educators to share their knowledge and expertise with their colleagues.”
See Syracuse’s Opportunity Culture job postings for all its Opportunity Culture schools here. The schools joining the Opportunity Culture initiative in 2015–16 are Franklin Elementary, Huntington K-8, Meachem Elementary, and Lincoln Middle.
Opportunity Culture models use job redesign and age-appropriate technology to reach many more students with excellent teaching, without forcing class-size increases. Opportunity Culture teachers typically work in collaborative teams led by excellent teachers, who provide the collaboration and support that is a hallmark of an Opportunity Culture. Pay supplements for Opportunity Culture positions are funded within regular, recurring budgets, not temporary grants, so that they are financially sustainable.
Public Impact created the core models, with substantial teacher input, and is working in Syracuse with lead schools partner Education First and the Syracuse Teachers Association to help the Syracuse schools implement and evaluate their models. Education First, an education policy and strategy firm, has extensive experience facilitating collaborative change in district schools.
All Syracuse Opportunity Culture schools have chosen to use the Multi-Classroom Leadership model, which lets excellent teachers advance in their careers without leaving the classroom and develop peers on the job. The multi-classroom leader leads a team of teachers, co-teaching, co-planning and collaborating with them during set-aside time within the school day. Multi-classroom leaders in Syracuse schools are earning pay supplements roughly 20 percent higher than the average teacher salary.
Some schools will also use the Time-Technology Swap model, in which teachers use digital instruction for limited, age-appropriate periods (as little as an hour daily), freeing time while some students learn online to teach more students, plan, and collaborate with a teaching team.
Syracuse is in the midst of its five-year “Great Expectations” strategic plan, part of its mission to become the most improved urban district in America. More than three-quarters of Syracuse students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches; about one-quarter of Syracuse families live in poverty, compared with the state average of about 10 percent—and more than 44 percent of children under 18 live in poverty. System leaders know great teachers are the key to changing the odds for these students, and paying them more and letting them lead and learn on the job while teaching is essential to attract and keep them in Syracuse.
Syracuse is part of the national Opportunity Culture initiative, which includes schools in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, N.C., Nashville, Tenn., Big Spring, Texas, and Cabarrus County, N.C. Indianapolis Public Schools also recently announced its launch of Opportunity Culture in up to six schools in the 2015–16 school year.