Teacher Pipeline for Blended Learning Schools

Hi folks, Typically this blog has a few new readers a week. It used to be most of my readers were teachers I knew personally. Plus my mom and dad.

Now there are more folks I don't know. So: hello.

I work on a few different things.

a. Match Education has 2 charter schools. We're trying to get kids to learn a lot and become college ready.

b. We also want to find ways to make it easier for teachers to succeed. One way we do that is vying to expand our model of high-dosage math tutoring.

c. We also operate a small teacher prep program; our grads then go to work at similar charter or turnaround schools.

Match is not trying to become a charter school chain, or CMO. We're more R&D. We try new stuff. If it fails, we try something else. If it works, we try to share that know-how with others.

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I'm working on something new. With a history teacher named Ray. It's a "blended learning" school. Called Match Next. We're mostly in spit-balling stage. It's fun.

One goal of Match Next is to make teachers' lives easier. After all, one knock on the current No Excuses model is: exhausting for teachers and principals alike. Fair critique. Many of the teachers I know, whether in traditional high-poverty schools or charters, tend to put their kids to bed and then get back on their laptops, or (younger teacher version) tend to go to the gym in early evening and watch some TV, then back to work before bed.

I even have fantasies of Match Next "locking in" a teacher maximum workday by taking away laptops and cell phones at 5pm, allowing the tutor corps to continue laboring with kids, while the teachers go home and have guilt-free family time. Many of my ideas don't quite work out, but who knows. Maybe this one will.

Anyway, Ray has been learning a lot from other blended-learning schools, since he's part of a cohort of new schools funded by a group called Next Gen. Ray writes:

At the conference I just attended, principals at blended learning schools described the following hiring challenge.

They want experienced teachers who know what they're doing. Not newbies.

But they also want:

a. Unusually flexible teachers who actually enjoy rolling with the punches, because they assume the school will change rapidly in its first few years. I.e., this isn't for everyone: many great teachers crave familiarity, because structure allows them to focus on 1-to-1 kid interaction, and not reinventing whole school process and schedule.

b. Teachers comfortable dialing way back on the teaching-25-kids-at-once....which can be hard if you're quite good precisely at doing just that.

c. A very specific version of team player....one that specifically excludes people who THINK of themselves as team players....in that they are unfailingly helpful to colleagues, cordial/productive in department meetings, but love the autonomy of the individual classroom, and in particular the autonomy of controlling curriculum.

Hmm. I'll be interested to see who turn into the star teachers of these blended learning schools. Are they the same folks who were great teachers in other environments? Or does a blending learning model give some folks a chance to shine, in a way they wouldn't in a traditional school?

Ray adds another nugget, this one about technical training:

First, many of these schools are not searching for teachers with impressive technical skills. They figure it's easy to learn. Second, I was intrigued at the TINY amount of summer technical training these schools provide to teachers. The common summer story was this. An ed-tech vendor provides "required" training. The teachers found it HORRIBLY long. So a school might send a single teacher or leader to a 4-hour training, then condense it into TEN minutes. Another school described how their tech/product training declined from 2 weeks to 2 days.

Instead, the narrative was -- you can't easily replicate real kid-use in a summer faculty training. So summer training is best kept as low as possible. Better to sprinkle training (problem-solving) sessions throughout the year.