On December 8, 2012, members of the VIVA ISEA Teachers Idea Exchange presented their report Re-Imagining School Leadership for the 21st Century to the board of the Iowa State Education Association. On December 19, 2012, they presented their ideas to members of Governor Brandstad’s administration.
Schools of the 21st century cannot be run by principals alone. The stakes—the education of our children and the future of our state—are too high. We must tap the best and brightest among us to be school leaders if we are to give all students the high quality education they deserve.
The leaders of the state of Iowa have recognized this and are looking for ways to entice teachers to take on more leadership responsibilities within schools. We know that teachers are ready for this new challenge. The key is to create a system that allows them to stay firmly rooted in the classroom while also working to meet the bigger needs of the school or district overall.
This report lays out 17 ideas for ways to make Teacher Leadership a sought-after and effective way to run schools. By creating a role for teachers that is something more than classroom instruction but something less than administration, the state can get the best of both worlds: teachers who remain committed to serving their students while also sharing their skills and expertise with others. That is the way to grow the leadership needed to ensure student learning improves.
Recommendations Included in this report:
To be successful, Teacher Leaders must have the confidence of faculty members and administrators. That would be much more likely happen if the Teacher Leaders were chosen via a process that includes input from both teachers and administrators.
While there are many potential Teacher Leadership roles in school—among them modeling best instructional practice, mentoring new teachers, liaising with families, and helping teachers prepare for their evaluations—all roles must be clearly defined to ensure they do not cross into the realm of purely administrative tasks.
Teacher Leaders can provide a low-cost, more effective professional development by using their unique positions in the school or district to disseminate best practice ideas and differentiate professional development to fit the needs of each individual teacher and school.
Teacher Leaders, Teacher Mentors, and Model Teachers can be effective only if they know that their students will continue to thrive academically while their teachers are away performing Teacher Leadership duties. This can easily be accomplished through a variety of approaches, including hiring “permanent subs” for a building or district and bringing in retired teachers as subs.
Teacher Leaders must be compensated adequately for the additional time they spend fulfilling their leadership duties.