Empowering schools to design and implement agile teams

Empowering school districts to explore agile staffing models

Principal investigator:
Originating sponsor:
Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation
Grant start date:
January 1, 2020
Grant end date:
June 30, 2021

The challenge:

Next Education Workforce at ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College created a pilot program for a new residency model of teacher preparation in the 2018–19 school year. Approximately 50 teacher candidates were placed in the Avondale and Pendergast school districts, working in teams of two or three TCs plus a mentor teacher who was already an employee of the district. Each team was responsible for two classrooms with approximately 60 pre-K–12 students. For this pilot program, the school districts used money that was typically allocated for long-term substitutes to pay the teacher candidates and provide the mentor teachers with a stipend.

The next iteration of team-based residencies, for the 2019–20 school year, was adopted by 11 Arizona school districts and involves nearly 400 teacher candidates. Most of those districts are committed to paying teacher candidates and supplementing the salaries of mentor teachers who work with the teams, but not all are currently able to.

The concept paper resulting from the 2018–19 model will document the design and process of creating a paid, team-based teacher residency program. But its local focus will not be sufficient in defining financial models that can be deployed in districts throughout the state and beyond. Such documentation is vital, as the ultimate aim of Next Education Workforce is to empower schools to design and implement agile staffing models such as this, with or without the inclusion of teacher candidates and a teacher preparation program.

To define a more broadly applicable model, the project team must examine district budgets and existing staffing models. In addition to teacher salaries, costs of other roles need to be considered and included in the budget of any such model.

The approach:

The pilot program in the Avondale and Pendergast districts identified several benefits:

  • Senior-year residents moved from a non-paid residency model, with implications regarding equity and who can become a teacher by mitigating student loan debt.
  • Residents in the team-based model appear to have progressed at twice the rate of non-team-based residents.
  • Mentor teachers received stipends of several thousand dollars, recognizing educators for their expertise.
  • The residencies required less than half the number of mentor teachers than traditional placements, allowing the college to be more selective in recruiting.
  • Fewer long-term substitute teachers were needed, making the model cost-neutral for the districts.

A grant from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation is facilitating the creation of a working group of human resources and finance subject matter experts from local school districts. This group will assist MLFTC and an external consultant in the design of sample budgets illustrating a range of staffing and budget reallocation options, both with and without teacher candidates. These model budgets will identify creative ways in which school districts could finance team-based teaching.

Findings and impact:

This funding continues through June 2021. It will result in:

  • A white paper that summarizes the group’s findings, provides concrete resources and steps associated with school finance and district/state HR policies, and informed by the college’s extensive work in a sustainable transformation of the teacher workforce.
  • Three sample budgets representing models with and without teacher candidates.
  • A concept brief codifying the ways that schools are able to pay teacher candidates and extend stipends to mentor teachers

These pieces will be part of a larger toolkit of resources made freely available to district partners, teacher preparation programs and others across the country who are interested in new staffing models.