Half the People Working in Schools Aren’t Classroom Teachers—So What?

When we think of elementary and secondary schools, many of us picture students in classrooms taught by lone teachers, overseen by a principal. In reality, many adults work in schools other than teachers and principals. It may be surprising to learn that there are as many non-teaching adults as there are teachers in U.S. public schools. These adults play roles from supporting students with special needs to coaching teachers to community outreach to maintaining facilities.

Some non-teaching adults help students learn and contribute to fulfilling our goals for school success, but others deal with unproductive requirements or are hired because of poor policy choices that distract schools from their focus on students. As the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) devolves decisions to states about what to hold schools accountable for and how, nothing is likely to be as important at the local level as human resource decisions.