- Since 46% of school districts in the United States have fewer than 1,000 students, elaborate professional learning communities and professional development programs may be out of reach for many teachers and principals, leading to a sense of professional isolation and impacting teacher retention.
- However, through funding from the U.S. Department of Education’s new Teacher and School Leader Incentive Program (TSL), Insight Education Group’s Empowering Educators to Excel (E3) initiative is working to connect five small school districts in five different states in a new networked improvement community to offer support for promoting school effectiveness.
- Project leaders seek to open up new pathways for success across schools by reducing professional isolation and providing more intense job-specific collaborations that will improve the effectiveness of all schools in the network.
Small school districts are often located in rural areas, and they tend to face unique challenges in terms of geography, funding and other resources. Because they are spread out geographically, teachers and administrators often either struggle to find housing or have to commute long distances. These districts are also often impoverished, which can create challenges around funding and parental support. All of these factors influence teacher hiring and retention, which exacerbates the problem.
However, studies have indicated that the biggest influence on student achievement is the effectiveness of teachers and principals. In theory, improving these factors should also increase student achievement. With modern methods of communication, the isolation from professional learning communities should no longer be a problem, and this new initiative is testing the strength of such networks across state lines.
According to AdvancED, “after synthesizing over 800 meta-analyses on the factors that impact student achievement, John Hattie concluded that the best way to improve schools was to organize teachers into collaborative teams that clarify what each student must learn and the indicators of learning the team will track, to gather evidence of that learning on an ongoing basis, and to analyze the results together so that they could learn which instructional strategies were working and which were not.” This initiative seeks to do that on a wider scale.