Professional Development

Report: Teacher-Leaders Need More Authority, Organizational Support

By Stephen Sawchuk — October 28, 2014 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The idea of “teacher leadership” is one of those curious ones in K-12 education that everyone seems to support, at least in a theoretical sense. But scratch below the surface and there’s not a ton of consensus. Should such teachers be able to formally evaluate other teachers? Should they get paid more? Are these formal positions or informal ones? How are they funded?

Aiming to inject some clarity into the discussion is a new paper that argues that, to truly change school culture, teacher leaders must be given significant authority within schools, including the ability to set agendas for meetings and to evaluate colleages. They should get release time to coach other teachers. And they should be selected based on their ability to act as leaders, not merely because they’re the most senior teachers in the building.

Though teacher-leadership is on the rise in school districts, teacher- leaders too often don’t have the structure and support to be effective at helping schools meet goals such as helping to implement new content standards, concludes the report, which produced by the Aspen Institute, a Washington-based think tank, and Leading Educators, a consulting group that helps districts set up teacher-leadership systems.

The report goes on to give a roadmap for districts, teachers, and others who are considering the idea. Meanwhile, a handful of other resources issued by the groups highlight teacher-leadership programs in Denver, which gives its lead teachers a $5,000 stipend and significant relase time; in Tennessee, where 200 “core coaches” led the charge to implement the Common Core State Standards in that state; and in Chicago’s Pritzger College Prep, which relies on teachers to be grade-level leads.

Here’s a handy chart from the report outlining what effective teacher leadership looks like, compared to what now often passes for teacher leadership.

In other words, doing this right means deep engagement among staff, teachers’ unions, and others to design teacher leaders’ roles and responsibilities strategically. And that may well require everyone to be push their thinking a little bit.

Teachers’ unions, for instance, have traditionally been supportive of the concept of teacher leadership but wary of some of the implications: In a bargaining context, where labor and management’s roles have historically been very clearly demarcated, having teachers evaluate one another can be a bit of a challenge. Coming up with fair ways of identifying teachers for leadership roles is another sticking point, one deeply wrapped up in the teacher-evaluation policy debate, as is allowing for a contract to reflect differentiated pay.

For district leaders, there are cost and administrative concerns. Giving teachers release time means hiring other teachers to cover their classes. If teachers are leading professional development, such as through collaborative teams, then that may require retooling school schedules.

I’d love to hear about some concrete examples from readers where teacher leadership has worked—or hasn’t—in your schools. What structures and supports helped it to be successful, or weakened its impact? Email me directly, or leave a comment for all of us!

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Joyce Foundation provided funding to the Aspen Institute for the report. (Those foundations also provide support for Education Week‘s coverage of college- and career-ready standards, and the teaching profession, respectively.)

Related Tags:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Professional Development Opinion Developing Success Criteria With PD Participants to Engage in Deeper Learning
Success criteria show educators how we believe they will be successful at the end of a lesson. Let's involve them in the process.
5 min read
Professional Development Opinion 4 Essential Elements Needed Right Now to Engage in Leadership Coaching
Leadership coaching is growing, but there are some important elements to consider before anyone engages in a coaching relationship.
6 min read
shutterstock 1586195833
Shutterstock
Professional Development Return of the In-Person Edu-Conference: Elementary Principals' Group to Meet in Chicago
Registration for the organization's first in-person conference since the pandemic started is keeping apace with that of previous years.
4 min read
Abstract blurred image of attendees in seminar room or conference hall and social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. new normal life concept.
Pratchaya/iStock/Getty Images Plus
Professional Development Some Kids Had a 'Choppy' K-12 Experience This Year. ISTE Will Explore Solutions
Big themes at this year's online-only ed-tech conference will include acceleration and finding K-12's way in a new, more virtual world.
2 min read
Image of a student working on a computer from home.
iStock/Getty