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New team-teaching model gains traction in the Valley

Posted at 5:58 PM, Feb 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-01 15:02:52-05

MESA, AZ — A new teaching model is being set up to help students and teachers across school districts in the state.

Instead of using one teacher for one class, the Next Education Workforce model is aiming to put educators into teams.

"Using a team to support collaboration among students and adults has been so great," said Laura Bristle, a lead teacher at Stevenson Elementary in Mesa.

Like other places, Arizona has had trouble filling all of its teaching positions.

However, developers at Arizona State University's Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College say they have created a system that will help teachers from burning out.

At Mesa Public Schools, the state's largest school district, there are seven teachers for dozens of students.

Bristle said she thinks the new model is working.

"[When] you're all by yourself, you have to make every single decision and it wears on you. It gets tiring, you get burnt out and now I have six other people working on the same goal who have relationships with the same kids," she said.

Experts at MLFTC have said for years the one-teacher, one-classroom model is outdated by a few centuries and was originally conceived for the industrial era.

In Arizona, five districts have been using the new model including Mesa Public Schools, Roosevelt School District, ASU Preparatory Academy, Kyrene, and Creighton.

"In these team-based models, we have several teachers working with groups of students in order to make sure every one of those students' needs are meant and they're learning as much as they can every single day," said Brent Maddin, the program's executive director.

"At the same time, the job of being a teacher is more sustainable for those educators and they stay in the job longer," he added.

According to Maddin, by having more teachers, students will have more people to learn from.

"By having a group of teachers an individual student gets to know and has access to every day, the likelihood of them finding a teacher with whom they really click with goes up," he said.

The models establish teams of educators to share rosters of students and adapt instruction to meet the individual needs of each student.

Stevenson Elementary's principal Krista Adams told ABC15 that the entire school will be using the team-based model moving forward.

"It was so successful with our one team last year...we went schoolwide," she said.

"It's exciting," Adams added. "I feel like there're some solutions, this is what we want for our kids, this is what we want for our educators and finally we're seeing it happen," she said.

The program has also received national attention.

On Wednesday, ASU and Mesa Public Schools hosted officials from different universities including Clemson, Boston University, and USC.

Maddin said early data showing the program's success has been impacted by the pandemic. However, he told ABC15 the early numbers show an increase in reading levels, an increase in attendance, and a decrease in behavior referrals like suspensions.

"We're getting a lot of requests from across the country," he said.

"Often we see stories about Arizona being in the news for all the wrong reasons but here's an example of people traveling from across the country to Arizona to see the new and innovative approaches like Principal Adams is leading here at Mesa Public Schools," Maddin said.