By Thomas Arnett
The success of our schools—and of our education system at large—hinges on teachers. From decades of research we know that teachers influence student outcomes more than anything else a school has to offer. Given the importance of teachers, many of the prominent ideas for improving education focus on increasing teacher impact through better recruitment, preparation, and development or through giving teachers better tools and resources. Yet perhaps one of the best ways to expand teacher impact doesn’t require extensive reform or new technology.
For some time, I’ve wondered if schools might help their teachers accomplish more by allowing them to focus more narrowly on what they do. This idea isn’t new to education. Middle and high school teachers already specialize by subject so they can hone deep expertise in teaching particular content areas. But what if schools took this idea a step further by having teachers specialize not just by subject, but by the roles they fulfill in the classroom?
Teaching is a multifaceted job that might benefit from some streamlining. In addition to being content instructors (often in multiple content areas), we also expect teachers to be curriculum designers, assessment creators, and experts at evaluating student work and analyzing student learning data, not to mention experts in classroom management and culture, coaching students on self-management, providing students with social and emotional support, and being the primary school connection with parents and families.