Unfortunately, there’s no shortage of jargon in the field of education. But here’s a bit of it that you might actually want to add to your vocabulary of eduspeak: “neo-differentiated staffing.”
“Neo-differentiated staffing” refers to an intriguing model of school staffing advanced in a new “thought” paper being circulated by Learning Point Associates, an Illinois-based education research group. Under Learning Points’ vision, educators could assume a wide range of roles based on their individual skills or the demands of the curriculum. Don’t confuse this concept with some other alternate staffing proposals out there, which call for differentiating the roles of more experienced master teachers from classroom-based novices.
What Learning Points seems to have in mind is creating an army of specialists trained to handle specific aspects of learning. A “learning clinician,” for instance, might diagnose a student’s competency levels, educational needs, and learning styles. The clinician then assembles a team of “content facilitators” who deliver the subject-matter content to students, possibly with the help of the “technology coordinator” down the hall or the “community liason” who is responsible for coordinating mentors or learning experiences that take students outside the confines of the classroom.
A “competency expert,” likewise, could also work with the content teacher to design and implement various kinds of assessments to gauge students’ learning progress. Teachers would also be paid more as they took on added responsibilities, and rewarded for performances that meet or exceed state expectations.
It all sounds very futuristic but, as the authors of this paper point out, the state of New Hampshire, with its new “extended learning opportunities” initiative for high school students, is already heading down that sort of road. (You can read more about it in this story from EdWeek.) The plan allows students to get academic credit for a wide range of outside-the-classroom opportunities, including private instruction, community service, apprenticeships, and online classes. That leaves teachers to take on the role of facilitators, brokering relationships between experts in the community and the academic requirements of the school system.
Check out the full Learning Points paper for yourself: “Toward the Structural Transformation of Schools: Innovations in Staffng” by researchers Jane Coggshall, Molly Lasagna, and Sabrina Lane.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Inside School Research blog.