As Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools heads into its third year with Opportunity Culture, a program that gives teachers hefty pay hikes in exchange for more responsibility, the group that created the program nationally has issued an “early lessons from the field” report.
The latest data from CMS, Cabarrus County, Nashville, Tenn., and Syracuse, N.Y., indicate that students appear to have made bigger gains when they had the highly effective teachers, who earn extra pay for teaching bigger groups of students and/or coaching colleagues. But the program is still new enough that you have to be cautious about drawing conclusions, especially in North Carolina, where last year’s test results aren’t available to researchers yet.
Teacher surveys show that the program is widely viewed as effective at offering top teachers better pay, a stronger leadership role and a chance to reach more students. But concerns remain about adequate planning time. And if you read the fine print, CMS had the lowest response rate of all the pilot districts, which raises a whole new set of questions.
As you may recall, the Opportunity Culture program began in 2013-14 at a handful of Project LIFT schools and expanded with the help of a Belk Foundation grant. It has attracted a lot of attention locally and across the state, not only because it offers pay hikes as large as $23,000 a year but because it is designed to be accomplished by rearranging existing budgets, rather than seeking extra money (the grant money is for training).
I’m putting the Public Impact data out there for early discussion, knowing there’s more reporting to do to see how well it’s really working and where it needs improvement. Those of you with first-hand experience have the best insights; I hope you’ll weigh in, either by posting comments or shooting me an email.