Opinion
School & District Management Teacher Leaders Network

Hybrid Teaching Roles Promote Student Success

By Kristoffer Kohl — February 02, 2011 5 min read

Using student data to inform instruction these days is akin to connecting dots of various shades and sizes that are arranged on different pieces of paper. It is difficult to know where to begin, and rarely does the picture turn out very clear.

The data stream is deep: fluency scores, reading comprehension levels, math facts, cut-scores, subgroups, safe harbor targets, intervention logs, high-stakes test results, language proficiency levels. To top it all off, these data points are located in an array of binders, notebooks, and computer programs.

Instead of getting a synthesized view of a student’s data, teachers are left to interpret the numbers by single-handedly compiling and analyzing figures. It demands extra time that teachers don’t have. Between planning differentiated lessons, grading, analyzing student performance, increasing one’s instructional prowess, and tending to the range of additional responsibilities that comprise an educator’s day, teaching effectively requires more hours than the traditional school day can provide. Data analyis is very often a priority that falls to the bottom of a teacher’s to-do list.

And while those without exposure to an ordinary day in the life of a principal may beg to differ, effective school administrators also struggle against time to meet the increasing demands of maintaining an environment that allows teachers to flourish. Any analysis of the mountain of potentially useful data must compete with overseeing six- or seven-figure budgets, managing 50 or more overwhelmed professionals, and interpreting and complying with bureaucratic directives—all while being legally responsible for the safety of hundreds or thousands of children.

A Flattened-leadership Solution

To address these issues in my Las Vegas school, I was invited to assume a hybrid teacher role as Data Strategist. I was charged with the task of organizing the various data points that, taken collectively, offer useful clues about student achievement, progress, and deficiency. The data lens could zoom out to a schoolwide perspective that might inform staff development planning, narrow to a classroom or grade-level view offering insight on skills requiring remediation, or focus on a single student being considered for referral to the school psychologist for a learning disability.

Roles like mine are still rare in American public schools today. The hierarchies that presently characterize the organization of schools have erected a wall between classroom instruction and school leadership. Teachers and administrators, overwhelmed by mounting responsibility and accountability measures, toil away in their separate spheres without enough time to collaborate or give thoughtful consideration to the diligent work of one another. Administrators are stretched too thin to meaningfully observe instruction and provide feedback, while teachers are scarcely able to affect change beyond the walls of their classroom.

If we are to shed the antiquated management strategies that produce sub-par student outcomes, then we must begin blurring the lines of distinction between those who lead and those who teach. Accomplished teachers deserve the opportunity to be central decision makers at their schools.

Research supports that conclusion. There is growing evidence that teacher empowerment as school leaders is linked strongly with teachers’ tendency to engage in behaviors that accelerate student growth: soliciting parent involvement, communicating positive expectations, and being willing and able to innovate in the classroom.

In addition to measurable student impact, teachers that lead schools are better equipped to guide their own professional development, share their expertise, and develop explicit and implicit systems of accountability, while experiencing more respectful, trusting, and professional cultures.

In Teaching 2030, recently published by Barnett Berry and a team of accomplished educators from across the country, the notion of hybrid teaching roles is identified as an emergent reality of the education landscape. Ideally, teachers would develop their own leadership work based on how their experience and skills intersect with the needs of the school. Teachers would continue to teach during part of the day and serve in leadership roles during the remaining time. Singapore has relied on such a model for decades to produce one of the most effective teaching forces in the world.

My Own Hybrid Experience

My own experience in a hybrid role stemmed from an interest in the conclusions that could be drawn from student assessment data. Although tests are an imperfect means of measuring achievement, the insights I gleaned over an extended period of time provided a basic foundation for self-reflection and evaluation of my instruction. After a few years applying such analysis to my classroom and the grade-level, a colleague commented on how useful such data-informed insight would be for the entire school. Title 1 funding that traditionally would have paid for an additional literacy specialist was allocated for the data strategist position. I devoted half my day to crunching numbers and the remainder to teaching writing and providing reading intervention.

The possibilities are endless when an individual’s interests and skills are considered within the context of a school’s needs. Such roles might also include community liaisons responsible for connecting families with various social services while plugging students into local job, volunteering, or community service opportunities. A keen interest in 21st-century skills might develop into a role that guides students to collaborate with others, synthesize information, and create something unique and useful for their peers.

The most prevalent barrier to hybrid teaching roles is the district-mandated staffing plan that leaves buildings with little opportunity to determine how personnel are allocated. Rather than create new positions, administrators should begin by elevating the decision making and leadership responsibilities of teachers. There are plenty of school committees crying out for teacher leadership and principals willing to hand over the reins. Master instructors could emerge in each grade-level or department to oversee coaching, informal evaluations, and professional development.

Hybrid roles can be instituted in a number of different ways, but the most important element for administrators to establish is time for teachers to be leaders. Our site opted to start school 10 minutes earlier than usual, which accumulated enough extra instructional minutes throughout the year for 12 early release days. Every few weeks, students leave at lunch time and the staff spend the remainder of the day tending to their classroom and leadership responsibilities. For some that includes new teacher mentoring, organizing tutoring programs, writing grants, compiling student data, planning with co-teachers, coordinating fundraisers, or creating assessments.

For me, it has been an opportunity to help connect the dots.

Events

School & District Management Live Event Education Week Leadership Symposium
Education Week's Premier Leadership Event for K12 School & District Leaders.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Law & Courts Webinar
The Future of Criminal Justice Reform: A Sphere Education Initiative Conversation
America’s criminal justice system is in crisis and calls for reform are dominating the national debate. Join Cato’s Sphere Education Initiative and Education Week for a webinar on criminal justice and policing featuring the nation’s
Content provided by Cato Institute
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Equity, Care and Connection: New SEL Tools and Practices to Support Students and Adults
As school districts plan to welcome students back into buildings for the upcoming school year, this is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and our systems to build a
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management Most Schools Offer at Least Some In-Person Classes, According to Feds' Latest Count
A majority of 4th and 8th graders had at least some in-person schooling by March, but inequities persisted.
3 min read
Image shows empty desks in a classroom.
Chris Ryan/OJO Images
School & District Management Opinion Education Researchers Should Think More About Educators: Notes From AERA
Steve Rees, founder of School Wise Press, posits AERA reflects a community of researchers too focused on what they find interesting.
4 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
School & District Management What the Research Says High Costs, Outdated Infrastructure Hinder Districts' Air-Quality Efforts
A national survey finds the pandemic has led districts to update schools' ventilation systems, but their options are limited.
3 min read
Mayor Bill de Blasio, center, checks the movement of a window inside a classroom at Bronx Collaborative High School, during a visit to review health safeguards in advance of schools reopening on Aug. 26, 2020, in New York.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, center, checks the movement of a window inside a classroom at Bronx Collaborative High School, during a visit to review health safeguards in advance of schools reopening earlier this school year.
Bebeto Matthews/AP
School & District Management Districts Are Spending Millions on ‘Unproven’ Air Purifiers
Schools are buying technology that academic air-quality experts warn can lull them into a false sense of security or even harm kids.
Lauren Weber, Kaiser Health News & Christina Jewett, Kaiser Health News
13 min read
A student listens to a presentation in Health class at Windsor Locks High School in Windsor Locks, Conn. on March 18, 2021.
A student listens to a presentation in health class at Windsor Locks High School in Windsor Locks, Conn.
Jessica Hill/AP