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Columbia-Brazoria ISD Invests in Teacher Leaders

Rows of desks and red chairs

Columbia-Brazoria ISD (CBISD) is launching a new approach to incentivize their best teachers to share skills and knowledge with other teachers.

CBISD is a District of Innovation (DOI) in southeast Texas serving about 3,100 students. Board members wanted to know why all teachers don’t do what the best teachers do in their classrooms.

Superintendent Steven Galloway began asking his staff the same question—why do we keep doing things that aren’t working well, and what’s getting in our way?

Teachers were asked to implement certain teaching strategies and align lessons with curriculum priorities, but that didn’t always happen. The district had persistent struggles with fourth grade English Language Arts and Reading (ELAR) and had lost four of their fourth grade ELAR teachers after Hurricane Harvey.

Make It Matter

The board agreed to fund an incentive plan for the upcoming school year that will pay the best teachers in needed areas up to $6,000 a year if they fulfill all of the expectations defined by the district. Stipends are paid out in $1,500 increments after each of four grading periods.

The stipends will go to early literacy teams in grades K–3 and to content leaders in math and ELAR in grades 4–6. The strongest teachers who generated the best results were identified and recruited for these roles. The early literacy teams comprise intervention teachers and instructional technology specialists who go into classrooms to coach and mentor teachers on the job.

To earn the stipend after each grading period, the designated leaders must fulfill all of the following defined expectations:

  • Develop and/or share a scoped and sequenced curriculum
  • Develop and/or share anchoring lesson plans for the curriculum
  • Schedule and lead team planning time at least once each grading period
  • Develop and/or share assessments

Most effective teachers will have already developed these tools and need only to share them with other teachers.

Give Teachers More Control

One thing that got in the way of teamwork was teachers missing after-school meetings scheduled by the district. Teacher leaders are now in charge of scheduling their own time and team meetings.

The new teacher leader incentive is only one of several teaching innovations that CBISD is implementing. Previously, Galloway had visited each campus to share information about Opportunity Culture, a concept that involves rethinking traditional teacher roles to leverage teacher talent. That effort led to several campuses choosing to modify teacher roles and staffing to enable more teaching time with struggling students.

For example, one elementary campus decided to hire two aides in lieu of a third teacher and merged two classrooms into one with two teachers and two aides. In another, five classrooms chose to merge into four and designate one teacher to focus on administrative tasks and pull-out lessons. The teachers decided that the trade-off of larger classes was worth the extra time to focus on teaching and provide more help to struggling students.

Galloway is hopeful that giving teachers more control over their classrooms and making teacher leaders matter will achieve better results.

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