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Opportunity Culture  

 
 –Sept. 30, 2016

 

Indianapolis Public Schools is proud to
be our region’s first district to implement Opportunity Culture (OC), a model that uses a new and innovative staffing framework to
extend the reach of excellent teachers and their teams to more students, for
more pay.

 

Six of our Transformation
Zone schools (Lew Wallace School 107,
Louis
B. Russell Jr. School 48
, Wendell
Phillips School 63
, William
Penn School 49
, Northwest
Community High School
and George
Washington Community High School
)
spent the last school year planning for this
exciting shift, and implementation is now underway! OC is not a one-size-fits-all
model; the strategy is as unique as each of our school communities.

 

We visited two of our new OC schools to
see what the beginning of this exciting process looks like.

 

Wendell Phillips School 63 

At Wendell Phillips, a four-member design
team spent the 2015-2016 school year training to learning the ins and outs of
OC and completing site visits to OC schools in other communities to determine
the needs for their school. Principal Paul Wirth and his fellow design team
members found the greatest need for support in third and fourth grades, as
students transition into standardized testing through ISTEP and IREAD. To fully
support the third- and fourth-grade students and staff, a Multi-Classroom
Leader (MCL) position was created. This classroom leadership role allows
schools to hire talented and experienced educators to take on increased
responsibility for the academic success of larger groups of students.

 

“This is a great opportunity for us to
really have an impact on students by identifying our strongest assets and
allowing them to be used in the right manner,” said Wirth.

 

With support from an Aspiring Teacher
(AT), the Wendell Phillips MCL is able to provide enhanced instruction by
coaching third- and fourth-grade teachers. The AT role is along the lines of a
teaching assistant, but with more instructional responsibility.

 

Tristan Bragg, the MCL at Wendell
Philips, comes to IPS from Houston where she served as a classroom teacher for
five years, an instructional coach for two years, and an assistant principal
for two years.

 

“My heart is in instruction,” said Bragg,
“so I wanted an opportunity to come back and be a coach. In this role, I really
get to do that and dive deep with my teachers in learning content. I’ve created
a space in our Professional Learning Communities and in our planning where
teachers can come with real content questions like, ‘What is the difference
between recall and summarizing? Predicting and inferencing? What’s the
difference between a digit and a number?’ Teachers are able to get that extra
content support.”

 

Principal Wirth said he’s already starting
to see the difference in the school’s teachers.

 

“Their planning process causes them to
think about instruction in a different way, and the support from the MCL really
opens up that consistent conversation,” said Wirth. “I think we’ll begin to see
those direct impacts moving forward with our students.”

 

“I love coaching,” said Bragg. “I love
helping teachers to be successful, and they can do it!”

 

In addition to coaching, Bragg works with
small groups of students during the day to provide instructional support. Data
marking the students’ progress throughout the year will help the Wendell
Phillips team track the success and identify growth areas for their OC model.

 

Students in fifth and sixth grades are
also experiencing the positive impact of Opportunity Culture. The school’s
leadership team identified an additional opening for an MCL in the upper grade
classes. As the AT for fifth and sixth grades takes on additional responsibilities,
the MCL will gain valuable coaching time to support other teachers.

 

Louis B. Russell Jr. School 48

Louis B. Russell’s design team also
identified the crucial transition to third grade as the primary focus of their
OC supports, but the model looks a little different than at Wendell Philips.

 

At Louis B. Russell, an Expanded Impact Teacher
allows the third grade teaching team to use a model where students receive
instruction from three teachers in three different content areas: math, reading,
and writing and reading foundations.

 

“Our Expanded Impact Teacher is bridging
the gap from the reading foundations students learn in second grade, and is now
taking it up a notch in third grade,” said Principal Crishell Sam. “She also
shares her time with second-grade students to help them prepare for what’s
ahead next school year. To help her accomplish this, our Aspiring Teacher
provides support through our time/technology swap and classroom instruction,
allowing our Expanded Impact Teacher to reach our second-grade classes.”

 

The AT also provides technology courses
to all students in Grades 3-6. This enables math and English/language arts
teachers to meet in professional learning communities twice weekly to bounce
ideas off of each other and grow professionally in their content area. Principal
Sam is already seeing a positive impact on her teachers, especially in third
grade.

 

“I have noticed our teachers are focused
on one specific content area, rather than trying to manage all three,” she
said. “This allows each third-grade teacher to become a true specialist in
their area and offer consistent, targeted instruction. It is a learning process
for us, but we are employing that growth mindset to consistently identify areas
where we can fine-tune our strategy. The teachers are trusting the process and
the changes required for our model, but it’s been a positive learning curve.”

 

We are certainly looking forward to
following the progress of our OC schools as the year rolls along.
Congratulations on a great start to the school year!