FAIRFIELD, CA - Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District is the only district in California to join the national Opportunity Culture initiative, led by Public Impact. Opportunity Culture extends the reach of excellent teachers and their teams to more students, for more pay, within recurring budgets. Fifty-five districts and charter school organizations in 10 states now use Opportunity Culture models in their schools. This initiative increases student learning growth and access to small-group tutoring, and creates career paths for teachers and paraeducators that let them advance their leadership without having to leave the classroom.
Opportunity Culture schools and staff roles are designed to maximize both student learning growth and educators’ paid career opportunities. In Opportunity Culture districts, each participating school forms a design and implementation team of teachers and administrators to determine how to use Opportunity Culture roles to reach more of their students with excellent teaching. In contrast to temporary grant-funded programs, Opportunity Culture design teams reallocate school budgets to permanently fund substantial pay supplements for those in Opportunity Culture roles and for teacher resident salaries. The foundational Multi-Classroom Leader (MCL) role is for a teacher with a track record of high-growth student learning. The MCL leads a small teaching team for substantially higher pay. The MCL continues to teach students directly in various ways for a portion of each day. The MCL leads lesson planning, data analysis, and instructional changes. This MCL also coaches team teachers, co-teaches, and models for them.
Team Reach Teachers get support from an instructional paraprofessional called a Reach Associate, and from pre-existing teaching assistants, if available. Reach Associates are a key part of MCL teams. They play a variety of roles, but the core is providing instructional support, with strong MCL guidance and coaching, through tutoring small groups and supporting students on skills practice and other assignments.
Teams may include yearlong, paid teacher residents, embedded in existing reach associate roles. They learn on the job, with heavy guidance and feedback from MCLs, just like new teachers on the team. Paid residencies provide a way to enter the teaching workforce for candidates who need to earn income while obtaining degrees and certification.
Third-party studies have found that, on average, teachers who joined Opportunity Culture multi-classroom leaders’ teams moved from producing 50th percentile student learning growth to 77th percentile student learning growth.
A 2018 study looked at implementation in three early Opportunity Culture districts, while a 2021 study looked at a Texas district’s outcomes during the 2020–21 pandemic year. In the Texas study, the researchers highlighted how positive the results were for English language learners and students considered socioeconomically at risk—particularly notable during a pandemic. (Read more here.) Data gathered by Public Impact also shows that by the fourth year of implementation, as MCLs reach more students, Opportunity Culture schools' odds of high growth are more than 50 percent higher than schools without MCLs. And in interviews and surveys, educators report strong satisfaction with the support these roles provide.
Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District is in the exploration phase with Project Impact. The District will gather more information and initiate a small pilot of Opportunity Culture in three Title I schools that will spend the 2023-2024 school year planning for implementation. The goal is to implement the Opportunity Culture pilot in the 2024-2025 school year.
Learn more about the Opportunity Culture initiative on the OpportunityCulture.org website, which provides free Opportunity Culture tools, educator videos, audio, and columns, and instructional leadership and excellence resources.