Press Release

Public Impact Projects Large Gains in Student Learning, Teacher Pay, State Economy with Statewide Use of “Opportunity Culture” School Models

Analysis of statewide implementation, using N.C. as example, shows possibility for teachers to earn hundreds of thousands more over career, students to gain years of learning.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—In a major policy brief out today, Public Impact estimates what a state would gain by implementing “Opportunity Culture” models statewide, using North Carolina as an example for analysis. Opportunity Culture models redesign jobs to extend the reach of excellent teachers to more students, for more pay, within budget—typically in collaborative teams on which all teachers can pursue instructional excellence together and are formally accountable for all of the students they serve.

Using conservative assumptions to analyze the cumulative impact over one generation of students, or approximately 16 years of implementation, in three-fourths of North Carolina’s classrooms, Public Impact’s analyses project that:

  • Students on average would gain 3.4 more years’ worth of learning than in a traditional school model in the K–12 years.
  • Teachers leading teams would earn up to $848,000 more in a 35-year career, with considerably higher figures possible for large-span teacher-leader roles not included in this analysis.
  • Teachers joining teams to extend their reach could earn approximately an additional $240,000 over their careers.
  • State income tax revenue would be up to $700 million higher in present-value terms over 16 years of implementation; increased corporate and sales tax revenues are not included.
  • State domestic product would increase by $4.6 billion to $7.7 billion in present-value terms over the next 16 years.

The authors project that teachers leading teams in states with pay closer to the national average would earn up to $1 million more in a 35-year career. Public Impact has separately suggested that a 10 percent average base pay increase is also needed for teachers in North Carolina, where pay is near the bottom nationally.

The brief provides an analytical framework that any state could use to estimate the benefits of transitioning to higher-paid school models that extend highly effective teachers’ reach. It addresses the ways a state could make the transition to these Opportunity Culture models, and some of the critical policy conditions needed for the transition.

“These projections show how dramatically a state can improve conditions for all its citizens,” said Bryan C. Hassel, Public Impact’s co-director. “Any state can ensure that its students have access to excellent teaching and that its teachers get the career opportunities and compensation they deserve, and the state’s economy reaps the benefits.”

As of spring 2014, four districts nationally are piloting Opportunity Culture models, and one, Charlotte-Mecklenburg, is taking its pilot efforts to scale based on early recruiting results and demand from schools.

Each school’s design team tailors the models to meet the needs of its students and make the most of its teachers’ talents. These models, which many schools use in combinations, include:

  • Multi-Classroom Leadership, in which an excellent teacher with leadership competencies leads and develops a “pod” of teachers and one or more paraprofessionals, while continuing to teach, and is accountable for all students in the pod.
  • Subject Specialization, which lets elementary school teachers teach only their best subjects or subject pairs, such as language arts/social studies or math/science, with support from a new paraprofessional on the team, allowing consolidated planning time and greater reach.
  • Time Swaps, in which students spend as little as an hour daily on digital instruction or project work and non-digital skills practice supervised by a paraprofessional, freeing time for teachers to reach more students with differentiated, higher-order instruction—in some cases in smaller groups. Teachers also can spend freed time on extra planning and team collaboration.
  • Remotely Located Teaching, which allows schools with extreme teacher shortages to let a great teacher down the hall or across the state engage students using two-way video and other technology, so that all students, no matter where they live, can have excellent teachers responsible for their learning. These teachers are supported by on-site paraprofessionals and teachers. 

Opportunity Culture models are designed to transform the traditional teaching environment, taking it from the one-teacher-one-classroom mode to a collaborative, team environment, and providing new career paths for teachers that allow them to advance their careers without leaving the classroom.

By putting excellent teachers and their teams in charge of more students’ learning, Opportunity Culture models are projected to produce learning gains that begin immediately and build over time. In a traditional classroom model, students have a one-in-four chance of having a highly effective teacher in any given year in a subject. In the Opportunity Culture models analyzed in the brief, excellent teachers are responsible for 33 percent to 500 percent more students, directly and via teaching teams, with no class-size increases.

Public Impact’s analyses project that children would acquire more than three extra years’ worth of learning in a K–12 career—which would translate into average lifetime earnings increases of $100,000 to $130,000 per student, according to research showing the link between student achievement and lifetime earnings potential.

For states, the student achievement gains build a 21st-century workforce for new and expanding businesses.

Applying prior research findings about how gross domestic product increases with student achievement gains, the analyses show that if North Carolina began its implementation in 2015–16, then the annual gross state increases through 2031 would have an estimated net present value of $4.6 billion to $7.7 billion.

The fiscal impact for states is projected to accumulate significantly over time as the increase in individual incomes generates additional revenues from income tax receipts—projected to increase by $700 million, in present value terms, over the 16 years of implementation according to the North Carolina projection. Increased state revenue from corporate and sales taxes resulting from projected income and economic growth are not included in the analysis and would likely increase this figure.

“These are merely projections of what is possible. In North Carolina and elsewhere, it will take a new level of post-partisan political leadership and all-in teamwork by philanthropists, educators and reformers on both sides of the aisle to achieve what is possible for students, teachers and taxpayers,” said Public Impact Co-Director Emily Ayscue Hassel.

The full brief, written by Christen Holly, Stephanie Dean, Emily Ayscue Hassel and Bryan C. Hassel, is available at

For more information, please visit To arrange an interview with Public Impact’s co-director, Dr. Bryan C. Hassel, contact Anne Halstater at; 919.357.5519.


About Public Impact

Public Impact is a national organization whose mission is to dramatically improve learning outcomes for all children in the U.S., with a special focus on students who are not served well. We are a team of professionals from many backgrounds, including former teachers. We are researchers, thought leaders, tool-builders and on-the-ground consultants who work with leading education reformers.

Learn more about an Opportunity Culture on The website also provides tools – all free — for school design teams, and related publications.

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