In spring 2022, Education Forward DC funded a staffing innovation pilot to support schools in exploring how they might innovate on their staffing model to increase teacher satisfaction and boost retention. The project was simple but ambitious: schools opted in to receive 50 hours of consultant support to pilot an innovative approach to their staffing before the end of the 2021-22 school year. We recently also released an update with learnings from three additional schools—one of our pilot schools and two other local education agencies—trying more radical approaches to address the challenge of teacher sustainability.
While no schools in the pilot pursued any innovation as radical as a four-day workweek for teachers, they elevated some important learnings for other school leaders seeking to improve the teacher experience during a challenging period.
Overall, schools’ experiences in the pilot revealed that there is not a clear solution to teacher sustainability. Schools found that freeing up more time for teachers is difficult, but possible in small amounts; some schools explored ways to reduce teachers’ non-instructional student-facing time, while others sought to improve the amount and quality of teacher planning time. Other schools realized that more time was not necessarily the best solution to improve the teacher experience given current constraints; in some cases, teachers needed better instructional support or a reduced planning burden to make their jobs more sustainable
The mixed success of the pilot across participating schools also highlighted some useful lessons about the opportunity for innovation during the pandemic. Even with consultant support, many school leaders found it difficult to think creatively about new approaches, and to lead teachers to do the same, while battling the exhaustion of last school year. Pilots were most successful when there was strong alignment across the leadership team and an existing level of comfort among staff about the idea of mid-year experimentation.
The pilots demonstrated that even small-scale shifts can have a meaningful impact on teacher experience, but more radical solutions to teacher sustainability will require larger investments of time and resources.
Ed Forward DC hosted a webinar with consultants who led the innovation pilots on August 11, 2022.