Teachers are the biggest within-school factor impacting student achievement, but they have faced mounting and often conflicting pressures during the pandemic.
Research shows that teachers are the most important factor in a student’s education and teacher quality and variability across and within schools impacts both short and long-term outcomes, including income level as an adult. But Covid-related operational pressures, including safety concerns and shifting guidelines for in-person education, mean educators are often operating in suboptimal conditions, leading to 32 percent saying they are at least somewhat likely to leave their jobs in the next three to six months. The most common reason teachers cited for leaving the profession during the pandemic was stress.
Teachers feel inadequately prepared to deal with the added responsibilities of the pandemic.
Teachers’ roles have changed greatly during Covid, including having to teach remotely using new technology, engaging families in home-based learning, and being responsive to even wider learning gaps than before. Additionally, teachers often don’t have the right information or the right tools to be effective. The fragmentation of data sources means there is no one way of knowing what is working for students and how teachers can best support their learning, leading to challenges for both school leaders and classroom educators. More real-time data can provide school and system leaders the information they need to meaningfully support teachers’ development and student learning.
School leaders are critical to building the necessary conditions for effective instruction and learning.
School leadership plays a key role in building the alignment and coherence that allows professional learning to have a bigger impact on student learning. Existing Overdeck Family Foundation grantees have deepened their focus on building strong leadership, systems, and structures to ensure that professional learning can have a longer lasting impact on student learning. Covid reopening toolkits and resources from grantees including Instruction Partners, New Leaders, and Public Impact have a deep focus on supporting school leaders as critical levers to school reopening plans, and New Leaders, CLEE, Instruction Partners, Leading Educators, and Public Impact all have rubrics that identify leading indicators of success that rely on conditions in schools.
High-quality instructional materials, and educators’ ability to use them, remain critically important to student achievement.
Instructional resources are the second biggest in-school factor impacting student achievement. Yet we know that not enough students have access to the high-quality instructional materials that would support their learning: only one-quarter of teachers reported using fully-aligned ELA materials at the elementary level, and one-third reported doing so at the middle school level. Additionally, the current fragmentation of data sources in school districts means that there is no one way for teachers to know what is working and how they can best support student learning. This also makes it more difficult for leaders to support teachers in their practices or in their staffing.
In the right roles and in supportive environments, teachers can achieve extraordinary results.
Public Impact’s Opportunity Culture, an Overdeck Family Foundation-funded initiative, found that teachers previously performing on average at the 50th percentile produced student learning gains equivalent to teachers in the top quartile in math and nearly that in reading when placed on teams led by multi-classroom leaders with a record of high student learning growth.
Classroom culture, more than teacher experience, predicts student achievement gains.
Classroom culture, which is defined as a positive and safe school environment, a culture of high expectations, and supportive school leadership, is predictive of student achievement in math and reading. Overdeck Family Foundation professional learning grantees deliberately develop teacher social capital to support ownership over instructional shifts and improve student learning.
Technology and virtual delivery options continue to be valuable for educators, students, and families.
Eighty-five percent of teachers report that tech tools will play a bigger role in the current school year than they did prior to the pandemic, and almost half of teachers and 42 percent of parents support online learning for instruction at times when school cannot be open in person. Recently, virtual delivery of professional learning has played a key role in grantees growing their impact and reach. Approximately 85 percent of Teaching Lab’s participants reported satisfaction with the overall quality of their virtual professional learning courses, with 87 percent reporting that they would apply what they learned. Additionally, New Leaders’ fully virtual Learning Hub platform received increased participant satisfaction from 79 percent to 94 percent.
Empowering teachers to drive their own high-impact professional learning, in a format that suits them best.
Expanding the evidence base of high-quality instructional materials.
Partnering with system and school leaders to make professional learning more actionable and relevant.
Public Impact’s Opportunity Culture
Scaling an innovative professional learning and staffing model across America’s public schools.
Expand Student Access
Ensure all students have access to high-quality instructional materials and teachers who are trained in their use.
Focus on Data Tools
Spur the innovation, research, and scale of data tools that provide school leaders and teachers with real-time information designed to proactively improve student learning.
Amplify Differentiated Staffing Models
Identify and scale differentiated staffing models that retain and reward the most effective teachers, promote diversity, and differentiate teacher roles based on their strengths and student needs.
What are the most effective ways to ensure that teachers are using high-quality instructional materials with all students, and what role do leaders play in ensuring the effective implementation of high-quality instructional materials?
What support do leaders need to make differentiated staffing a successful strategy in helping retain effective teachers and drive student learning?
Which data tools are most effective for leaders and teachers to drive student success, and what is needed for these tools to be successful?