First-of-its-kind Initiative empowers Teachers to Design Solutions for Addressing School Staffing Challenges

Nonprofit group, school district launch inaugural cohort of teachers who will work with design thinking experts on increasing teacher retention and satisfaction.

MEDIA CONTACT: Francesca Jarosz Brady, fbrady@penpriniciple.com, 317-450-2617

(Feb. 15, 2024) – With teacher shortages a persistent challenge in Indianapolis and nationally, a local nonprofit today announced a new initiative to engage teachers as experts in solving the problem. Teach Indy, an Indianapolis-based nonprofit focused on elevating the teaching profession, has partnered with the Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township on its inaugural RTR: Reimagining the Teacher Role Cohort. Four teams representing Lawrence Central High School, Lawrence North High School, Belzer Middle School, and Fall Creek Valley Middle School will participate in the first cohort. Each team will consist of two to three teachers and at least one school leader.

Over the next year, the teams will collaborate with external design-thinking experts who will lead them in identifying pain points impacting teacher retention, analyzing the challenges they face in the profession, and brainstorming solutions with inspiration from national best practices. A solution will be piloted at each school at the beginning of the 2024 academic year, with the goal of refining and scaling it in the second semester.

“We have a rare opportunity to redesign teaching roles to create better outcomes for students and teachers, and teachers should be leading the charge,” said Sara Marshall, executive director of Teach Indy. “Through the RTR Cohort, we’re excited to build teams of teachers who collaborate with school administrators and design-thinking experts on solutions for keeping teachers in the classroom. We hope these ideas can elevate the teaching profession, transform outcomes for students in Indianapolis, and, eventually, be scaled nationally.”

As of January, there were 1,281 teaching vacancies in the state, according to the Indiana Department of Education job board. The teacher retention rate in Marion County was 68.5% in 2023, an improvement from 65.9% in 2022 but a drop from 70% in 2020 and 2021, according to the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation’s Community Data Snapshot.  

Several districts and schools across the country have deployed design thinking – a way of tackling problems with human needs at the center – to help rethink how school is delivered, especially following the disruptions and academic challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. These efforts have resulted, for example, in a new type of school aimed at improving lagging test scores in rural North Carolina; a Brooklyn-based school designed to equip predominantly underserved students with technical, professional, and financial skills through hands-on learning; and the reopening of a school in Washington, D.C., in response to community interest. 

The RTR Cohort is unique, leaders say because it engages teachers as the key experts driving ideas, and it’s squarely focused on the challenge of teacher retention and satisfaction.

“We know that having a high-quality teacher is the number-one factor in student success, and in Lawrence Township, we are committed to ensuring that all students have excellent teachers,” said Dr. Shawn A. Smith, superintendent for the Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township. “We look forward to partnering with Teach Indy on this transformational effort to put teachers at the center of innovation and design so that our talented educators stay in the classroom to the benefit of our students and community.”

The cohort will kick off its work in late January and collaborate throughout the rest of the school year and summer to design the pilot. Teachers and school leaders will receive a stipend from the district for their participation. 

Teach Indy plans to select new cohorts annually, and all public schools and districts across Marion County are eligible to participate. Learn More

###

ABOUT TEACH INDY

Teach Indy believes that teachers are essential leaders in their communities. As an Indianapolis-based nonprofit, we help elevate the teaching profession so that students can achieve their fullest potential.  We do this in three ways: by creating a diverse, teacher-centered community, by empowering teachers to be problem-solvers, and by elevating teachers’ expertise. Learn more at teachindynow.org

ABOUT MSD OF LAWRENCE TOWNSHIP

The state’s fifth largest and fastest growing school district, the MSD of Lawrence Township serves approximately 16,000 students across four Early Learning Centers, eleven Elementary Schools, two Middle Schools, two High Schools, a Center for Innovation and Technology, and an alternative setting high school. Lawrence Township strives to be the district of destination, a reputation built over the years based on the district’s award-winning staff, accomplished administrators, high-achieving students, supportive community, and innovative educational programs. Learn more at ltschools.org