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Indianapolis school principal changes staff culture

When Jeremy Baugh took over as principal at Lew Wallace School 107 in Indianapolis in 2014, half of his staff was new. The school had struggled with teacher retention, which was reflected in student success. Only 22 percent of kindergarten students were achieving at grade level.

The school’s 600 students come from 37 countries and speak 27 different languages. “We were in a transformation zone,” Baugh says. “We were low-performing and on a path for department of education takeover. I knew we needed a tool to help us retain teachers and increase student performance.”

Baugh implemented the Opportunity Culture initiative, where excellent teachers receive higher salaries to coach teams of educators. These teacher leaders focus on their colleagues’ strengths and professional development goals to enhance instruction and drive student success.

Designing the plan

Baugh did some finagling and staff reorganizing to create room for his initiative in the 2017-18 budget. “We looked at whether all of those vacant positions needed to be filled or if they could be filled in a different way,” Baugh says.

He hired three new teacher leaders—one for kindergarten through second grade, one for third and fourth grades, and one for fifth and sixth grades.

Lead teachers are paid an additional $18,300 per year, and they work with teachers from six classrooms on assigning roles, setting professional development goals, determining how students spend time and teaching some students directly.

With any new rollout comes challenges, including questions regarding peer assessment. “We needed teachers to know that this is a non-evaluative teacher transition that would focus on improving lesson plans and, as a result, grades,” Baugh says. Once that was made clear, educators fell in line.

Finding success

By the end of Opportunity Culture’s first year, the percentage of on-track kindergarten students grew from 22 percent to 97 percent. In addition, 97 percent of teachers returned after the first year.

Following that success, 14 other schools in the district have implemented the initiative and have seen similar results, Baugh says.

“Once the multiclassroom leader was in and working alongside teachers, the team understood that the leader was there as a resource to help and, more importantly, to help the kids,” says Baugh.