Opportunity Culture jobs may be the hot thing for Gov. Pat McCrory and the N.C. House, but in the Project LIFT schools that pioneered them they're still a work in progress.
Zone Superintendent Denise Watts talked about the quest to create higher paying jobs for great classroom teachers as part of a Project LIFT update to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg school board Tuesday. A couple of things are clear, she said during the presentation and in a conversation afterward: The jobs continue to attract a lot of interest, and they can be effective in retaining the best teachers.
Watts said her office got 800 applications for a small number of jobs at five schools in 2014-15. It was interesting to see how those numbers broke down, though: 140 of them passed an initial screening and 65 "elite candidates" got through three interviews and a data review. So far 27 have been hired, her report said, joining nine who remain from 2013-14.
So how many does that leave still to hire? Well, that's where things get murky. Watts said everything from enrollment projections for her nine schools to the General Assembly's decision on teacher assistants will shape the number of jobs available. Why assistants? Because some schools have used assistant positions to bolster pay for teachers taking on extra duties, so if the legislature eliminates those posts it could become more difficult to make the new jobs work.
The ultimate question -- Did those teachers boost student success? -- has yet to be analyzed. But Watts said that while the opportunity culture approach may not be proven yet, the change doesn't mean it's failing. In fact, she urged West Charlotte to create some opportunity culture jobs for the coming year in hopes of keeping some academic standouts who were being recruited elsewhere.
The Project LIFT schools will join with 17 more CMS schools in continuing to work on the system next year. Cabarrus County schools has also signed on with the Public Impact, the Chapel Hill firm leading the national experiment, to launch the opportunity culture in 10 schools next year.
And if plans in the governor's and House budgets prevail, more counties will get state money to start their own pilots over the next couple of years.
Watts said she thinks the additional ventures would be a good thing: "I don't think it will be a perfected model until we do it a few times."