APPR/Teacher Evaluation, Professional Development
August 03, 2015

Innovation Brief: Teacher Leader Programs

Source: NYSUT Research and Educational Services


The Challenge

innovationTeacher leadership has been widely recognized as an essential component of school reform and the professionalization of teachers. As a powerful strategy to increase student learning, research indicates that teacher leadership can retain teachers, support teacher effectiveness, facilitate school staffing innovations, improve decision-making at the school and district level and ultimately strengthen the teaching profession (NCCTQ 2010).

Investing in teacher talent by providing teachers with leadership opportunities is a smart investment in the teaching profession. Studies indicate that teachers care less about moving into a few administratively designed leadership positions and more about enlarging their professional roles and enhancing the professional aspects of their careers as classroom teachers. Teacher leadership as part of a teacher-designed career path is vital to recruiting and retaining effective practitioners. A recent survey found half of the teachers surveyed expressed interest in combined teaching assignments with other responsibilities in a teacher leadership role. (MetLife, 2013)

Over the past decade, teacher leadership has emerged in many NYS school districts. A growing number of effective teachers - the single most significant factor affecting student achievement - are assuming leadership responsibilities beyond those of the classroom. However, many challenges prevent school systems from fully leveraging the potential of teacher leaders. These include vague or undefined roles, failing to allocate appropriate time or authority for teacher leaders to be effective, failing to provide the training that teachers and principals need to empower teacher leaders, or a lack of support and resources. As a result, some teacher leader initiatives struggle for relevancy and sustainability.

The Innovation

This Innovation Brief describes essential components from successful leadership initiatives that labor/management teams should consider to ensure a strong and effective teacher leadership system.

Research indicates that teacher leadership initiatives are most likely to succeed when: (1) labor-management teams design differentiated staff roles that have high impact, (2) teacher leaders are selected based on multiple measures that demonstrate their vast skills, expertise and value to a school community, (3) development of leadership capacities is planned, (4) teacher leaders are supported by their colleagues and principal as they implement new differentiated staffing roles, and (5) three levels are targeted for development: individual, team and organizational.

Continuously high performing schools have "dense" leadership capacity, meaning broad-based, skilled participation by many in the work of leadership. (Lambert 2005)