A Roadmap for Teacher Leadership

aspengroupThe Aspen Institute and Leading Educators are out with a roadmap outlining paths teachers can take to assume more leadership roles in classrooms and schools.  The Aspen Institute released Leading from the Front of the Classroom: A Roadmap for Teacher Leadership that Works, which provides practical guidance for designing effective teacher leadership opportunities. The paper was developed in partnership with Leading Educators, a New Orleans-based entrepreneurial organization that designs and supports effective teacher leadership initiatives in school districts and charter networks.

Accompanying the release of Leading from the Front of the Classroom are three profiles of promising work in Tennessee, Denver Public Schools, and Noble Street charter network in Chicago that show how these systems integrate teacher leadership with other top priorities (e.g., implementing Common Core, strengthening teacher evaluation, building strong culture among students and staff) to increase impact and sustainability.

As school systems across the country grapple with increasing demands – to implement college-and-career-ready standards and meaningful teacher evaluation systems as student populations grow increasingly diverse – the need to support and guide teachers’ professional learning and development has never been greater. At the same time, overall funding is largely flat for the foreseeable future. There simply is no way to meet our ambitions for students without distributing greater leadership responsibility to teachers.

Leadership among teachers is an underutilized resource that taps into the wisdom of experience, teachers’ credibility with colleagues, and their desire to contribute more in service of students. While it will require redirecting existing resources (e.g., ending sit-and-get “professional development” contracts in favor of stipends and release time for teacher leaders), teacher leadership is an efficient way of marshaling resources for improvement while making schools more like other professional workplaces that give expert practitioners more responsibility in leading manageable teams.

The Aspen Institute and Leading Educators argue that teacher leadership should not be pursued as a standalone or isolated project, or even primarily as a retention or reward strategy. Instead, teacher leadership should be designed to advance the most important district and school priorities. For instance, in Denver Public Schools, Team Lead teachers supervise and are responsible for supporting and developing other teachers on their teams – and Team Leads are accountable for improving their teams’ results; this structure assists in making the scope of principals’ responsibilities more manageable while fully implementing the state’s new requirement for more intensive and rigorous teacher evaluations.

The work in Denver also illustrates how important teacher leadership is to elevating the teaching profession. According to Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg: “In any other knowledge-based profession, it’s an absolute given that you won’t see people trying to coach or supervise more than six or eight people. Yet in schools, we ask school leaders to coach and supervise thirty, forty, fifty people.” Only through differentiated roles for the most effective teachers can public education create careers that attract, retain, and develop the best talent.

Leading from the Front of the Classroom provides grounded lessons from leading systems and a practical framework for designing and implementing teacher leadership effectively. We hope it is a useful resource to district and state leaders who want to leverage teacher leadership as a means for improving student achievement.

Teacher Leadership is gaining traction as an improvement strategy, as illustrated by the U.S. Department of Education’s recent launch of the Teach to Lead initiative. Leading from the Front of the Classroom assists state and district leaders and their partners in making the most of this opportunity.

For more information, please visit:



Next Generation Accountability Concepts

The Center for American Progress and the Council of Chief State School Officers are out with a new report looking at next-generation accountability concepts that states have implemented in lieu of zero congressional action on No Child Left Behind.

Generally, the accountability reforms fall into 5 categories across the states:

  • Measuring progress toward college and career readiness
    Many states are rethinking mechanisms for measuring progress based on assessments and are including additional measures of college and career readiness such as the percentage of high school graduates who require remediation coursework in college.
  • Diagnosing and responding to challenges via school-based quality improvement
    Many states and districts are using a broad array of quality indicators, such as parent volunteer hours and attendance data, to measure school success and develop school-improvement plans, as well as making use of third-party experts to assist them in this work.
  • State systems of support and intervention
    States and districts are rethinking the way they support struggling schools. Some of the most prevalent strategies include school support teams, pairing high-growth schools with low-performing schools, networks of low-performing schools, engaging external providers, and recovery school districts.
  • Resource accountability
    Some states and districts are focusing more intently on the connections between resource allocation and outcomes, and several have tried to aggressively tackle inequitable school funding with new state funding formulas. Others are working to increase transparency and accountability for how funds are being spent to ensure that high-need students are receiving adequate support.
  • Professional accountability
    Most states have adopted new systems for evaluating and supporting teachers and leaders. However, some states are leveraging these new evaluation systems to create more robust on-site embedded professional development systems and developing school leaders, such as principals, to effectively carry out teacher-evaluation systems and instructional leadership. In addition, a number of states are also rethinking other aspects of the teaching profession, including teacher licensure, teacher-preparation program approval and accreditation, and selection, retention, and tenure.

Find that full report here: http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education/report/2014/10/16/99107/next-generation-accountability-systems/ .

ScopeA related report released by the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education and the Center for Innovation in Education at the University of Kentucky calls for new accountability systems with stronger, more multi-dimensional ways of evaluating schools, among other measures.

This report, penned by Education Policy veteran Linda Darling-Hammond, argues that this new system should rest on three pillars — “a focus on meaningful learning, adequate resources, and professional capacity — and should be driven by processes for continuous evaluation and improvement.”

“For more than a decade, the definition of ‘accountability’ in education has manifested largely in the form of consequences to schools that do not meet annual targets for growth on yearly state tests. This definition has resulted in a narrowing of the curriculum and a widening of the opportunity  gap,” said Linda Darling-Hammond. “A powerful accountability system must offer a rich and well-taught curriculum to all students, raising expectations not only for individual schools but for the functioning of the system as a whole.”

You can find that report here: https://edpolicy.stanford.edu/publications/pubs/1257 .


Real Progress in Maryland: SLOs and Teacher and Principal Evaluation

slo_assessmentThe Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) is making significant strides in guiding and supporting the implementation of Student Learning Objectives as part of a teacher and principal evaluation (TPE) system statewide. A new report from CTAC and WestEd prepared through the Mid-Atlantic Comprehensive Center (MACC at WestEd), examines frontline educators’ overall perceptions of TPE and key issues in implementation, including quality, consistency, and school, district and state support.

The more experience  educators have with the new evaluation system, the higher their skill and comfort levels are with its implementation, and the more their efforts focus on strengthening instruction. The report, Real Progress in Maryland, also includes recommendations which focus on ways to strengthen implementation within and across districts in Maryland, while reinforcing the instructional emphasis of TPE. Lessons learned will be instructive to all states striving to implement SLOs as part of teacher and principal evaluation.

For the report, please visit:


For more about Core Education’s coverage of SLOs, please visit: http://www.coreeducationllc.com/blog2/new-white-paper-on-technology-and-slos-from-core-educations-president/



School Climate Change

allianceforexcellenteducationAccording to a new Alliance for Excellent Education report, supporting great teaching is key to a positive school climate and academic success for at-risk students.

With schools implementing higher academic standards that require engaging and effective teaching, a new report from the Alliance for Excellent Education in partnership with the National Opportunity to Learn Campaign finds that far too many low-income students and students of color do not have access to great teaching that supports a positive school environment. The report, Climate Change: Improving School Climate by Supporting Great Teaching, asserts that teachers do not always have the preparation and support needed to develop necessary skills.

“Students in the most challenged schools benefit most from teachers who possess the ‘know how’ to create positive learning environments,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “Unfortunately, many teachers in these schools lack the training and support necessary to create learning environments that are as dynamic inside the classroom as they are in the community and workforce outside the classroom.”

As today’s classrooms continue evolving to prepare students to meet the demands they will face upon high school graduation, the knowledge and skills a teacher possesses become increasingly important. The report offers recommendations for supporting teachers in creating a positive school climate for all students and represents the final installment in the Alliance’s series of papers on how equitable and effective school discipline policies, equitable access to rigorous and engaging course work, and access to effective teaching work together to create a positive school climate.

For more information, please visit:



America Achieves Launches Global Learning Network

america achievesRecently, over 300 dedicated school and district leaders, from across the United States and Spain came together in Washington, D.C. for the Convening of World-Leading Schools. Each attendee represented a school or schools that exhibited impressive leadership by taking the PISA-based OECD Test for Schools to better understand how well they are preparing their students for success in our changing world. These leaders have joined the growing number of schools globally that are leveraging this powerful tool for learning. The convening marked the official launch of America Achieves Global Learning Network (GLN). The GLN is a professional learning community for assessment participants.

The members of the Global Learning Network are well-respected school and district leaders, many of whom represent world-leading schools here in the U.S. As members, they have the opportunity to better understand their assessment results, share improvement strategies made in response to those results, learn from best practices at schools within the GLN and around the globe, and serve as spokespeople, illustrating how practice shifts made in response to results have contributed to improved student outcomes. This work has already been featured on the PBS NewsHour, in Education Week, and in the New York Times.

Attendees at the Convening of World-Leading Schools had the opportunity to learn from national and international experts, including Andreas Schleicher of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Amanda Ripley, author of The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way. Participants discussed ways to improve outcomes based on assessment results in areas ranging from creating positive learning environments to strategies that initiate the right practice shifts in math, reading, and science. Participants also engaged with one another to share their experiences with the assessment and discuss specific actions that they are taking to improve student outcomes. America Achieves is grateful to all of the school and district leaders in attendance.

For more information, please visit: www.americaachieves.org


Upcoming (and recorded) Webinars from the Regional Ed Labs

IESThe Regional Education Laboratories offer a number of webinars that are of interest to education reformers. Below, you will find a list of recently recorded webinars as well an upcoming event of interest.

Effective School Leaders

This webinar explores the role of school leaders in fostering teacher effectiveness and  discusses strategies they can use to increase school leader competencies.

Principals play a vital role in supporting and retaining successful teachers. Learn what the research says about effective school leaders and how principals impact teacher quality, student achievement and school culture. Led by Dr. Eric Hanushek of Stanford University, the webinar examines the relationships among school socio-economic status, school leadership, and teacher turnover rate. Dr. Hanushek, a leader in the study of the economics of education, will draw from his recent publications, including his 2013 article, “School Leaders Matter.” The webinar is designed for principals, teachers, administrators, and anyone who has an interest in school leadership and professional development.

To view the recorded webinar, see:


Using Student Surveys as a Measure of Teacher Effectiveness

Join REL Appalachia to learn about the research base that supports the use of student surveys as a measure of teacher effectiveness. Participants also will learn about Kentucky’s statewide student voice survey.

To view the slides from this webinar, access the following URL and click “Materials”: http://www.relappalachia.org/events/using-student-surveys-as-a-measure-of-teacher-effectiveness/

Action Research 101: Research as Teaching Practice

Join REL Pacific for a webinar that will introduce teachers, principals, and other educators to the concept of action research—research conducted by educators within their specific school contexts to impact student learning.  Dr. Geoffrey Mills, Professor of Education at Southern Oregon University and author of Action Research: A Guide for the Teacher Researcher, will provide an overview of the origins and foundation of action research, its goals and rationale, and the four steps of the action research process: identify an area of focus; collect data; analyze and interpret data; and develop an action plan.

To view the webinar, follow the link and enter a valid email address: https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/298266078

Using Classroom Observation to Measure Teacher Effectiveness

October 21, 2014

This Ask An Expert online chat. will feature discussion of practical suggestions for using classroom observations to generate data and to provide helpful, timely feedback for teachers. Christy McInnis of Cambridge Education will lead the discussion as a continuation of the Using Classroom Observation to Measure Teacher Effectiveness webinar.

Register here: Using Classroom Observation to Measure Teacher Effectiveness



International Benchmarking: State and National Education Performance Standards

AIRThere is considerable variance in state performance standards, exposing a large gap in expectations between the states with the highest standards and the states with the lowest standards. Although this gap in expectations is large, many policymakers may not be aware of just how large it is. In general, the difference between the standards in the states with the highest standards and the states with the lowest standards is about 2 standard deviations. In many testing programs, a gap this large represents three to four grade levels.

This “expectations gap” is so large that it is more than twice the size of the national black–white achievement gap. Closing the achievement gap is important, but so is closing the larger expectation gap.

Reducing the expectation gap will require consistently high expectations from all states.

The report also found that success under No Child Left Behind is largely related to using low performance standards. The states reporting the highest numbers of proficient students have the lowest performance standards. More than two-thirds of the variation in state success reported by No Child Left Behind is related to how high or low the states set their performance standards.

These results help explain why the United States does poorly in international comparisons. Many states think they have high standards and are doing well, and feel no urgency to improve because almost all their students are proficient.

To read the full report, please visit:


Great Principals at Scale: Creating District Conditions That Enable All Principals to Be Effective

GPAS_cover1-239x300School leaders are critical in the lives of students and to the development of their teachers. Unfortunately, in too many instances, principals are effective in spite of – rather than because of – district conditions. To truly improve student achievement for all students across the country, well-prepared principals need the tools, support, and culture that enable them to be the best.

New Leaders and the Bush Institute’s Alliance to Reform Educational Leadership (AREL) launched the Conditions for Effective Leadership Project and partnered with leading researchers and practitioners to generate a comprehensive and research-based framework outlining the conditions necessary for transformational school leaders to succeed. Based on results from the Conditions for Effective Leadership Project, which included more than 20 education and leadership experts brought together by the Bush Institute and New Leaders, Great Principals at Scale: Creating District Conditions That Enable All Principals to Be Effective offers a framework of conditions that can help districts enable great school leadership. The Great Principals at Scale Toolkit was developed to help school system leaders assess their current leadership conditions and offers ways to improve those conditions to drive student achievement gains.


The report provides a framework to describe the set of conditions that effective school systems have in place that enable principals to be successful:

* Strand 1: Alignment among goals, strategies, structures, and resources, so that the work of every staff member in the district is supporting system-wide goals focused on increasing student achievement;

* Strand 2: Culture of collective responsibility, balanced autonomy, and continuous learning and improvement;

* Strand 3: Effective management and support for principals with on-going opportunities for development and feedback-and most notably, roles and responsibilities that are feasible; and

* Strand 4: Systems and policies to effectively manage talent at the school-level.

For more information, please visit:



New STEM Initiative: Blow Minds. Teach STEM.

Teach STEM

Urban Teacher Center (UTC) together with 100Kin10 and dozens of partner organizations, announced the launch of “Blow Minds, Teach STEM,” a coordinated, co-funded campaign to inspire undergraduates and recent graduates with strong science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills to become teachers.

The U.S. ranks 27th in math and 20th in science among industrialized countries, slotting in somewhere between the Slovak Republic and Lithuania. There is no way of turning around these dismal results without great math and science, tech and engineering (or STEM) teachers in our nation’s schools. Because of this, President Obama called for 100,000 excellent STEM teachers in his 2011 State of the Union Address.

100Kin10 is a network of 200 multi-sector organizations responding to this exact need. Working with over 30 of those organizations, 100Kin10 partnered with creative agency Cultivated Wit to design the campaign, which introduces STEM teaching as an impactful, even mind-blowing career option for STEM majors and recent graduates, while amplifying the importance of STEM teaching to a much broader audience.

Urban Teacher Center is working in partnership with 100Kin10 to recruit the best and the brightest to teach STEM subjects. In particular, UTC is focused on preparing a new cadre of highly accountable, Common Core State Standards-trained, mathematics teachers who have a deep capacity and desire to support the diverse needs of students. Through its intensive, four-year preparation program, UTC is developing highly effective educators who consistently outperform their peers. These teachers are preparing students for future success in a society with an ever-increasing need for STEM professionals.

“All students-including those in our country’s urban schools-deserve access to today’s innovative, entrepreneurial global economy,” said Jennifer Green, CEO and Co-Founder of Urban Teacher Center. “We need to recruit and prepare a new generation of teachers to build the skill sets and depth of knowledge in math and science that students need to compete and thrive in a 21st century landscape.”

Even before launch, “Blow Minds, Teach STEM” has garnered significant national attention from a range of supporters. Over 700 backers signed up to participate in the coordinated launch on Tuesday, September 16, amassing a social reach of over 12.7 million.

Singer-songwriter John Legend, actor Michael Ian Black, co-founder of Reddit Alexis Ohanian, human-centered design firm IDEO, media firm GOOD, “Father of the Internet” Vint Cerf, Time’s first Person of the Planet Sylvia Earle, and the United States Department of Education have lent their voices to “Blow Minds, Teach STEM.” They are joined by multitudes of parents, educators, scientists, mathematicians, and entrepreneurs, alongside a chorus of passionate citizens.

You can join in this effort to bolster and grow our national STEM teaching force by visiting www.blowminds.org.


Finn: Eight of the Toughest Challenges Schools Still Face



Chester E. Finn Jr., a veteran of the education policy wars in the United States over the last several decades, finds two main things to be pleased about in terms of school reform, but eight main things to be targeted as needed reforms for the future.


Following are his two positives:

  • First, we now judge schools by their achievement results, not their inputs or intentions. And while we still struggle with the details, over the years we’ve developed academic standards that set forth the results we seek, created measures to gauge how well they’re being achieved, built a trove of data that generally makes results transparent and comparable, and constructed accountability systems that reward, intervene in, and sometimes sanction schools, educators, and students according to how well they’re doing.
  • Second, choice among schools has become almost ubiquitous. Though too many choices are unsatisfactory, and too many kids don’t yet have access to enough good ones, we’re miles from the education system of 1981, which took for granted that children would attend the standard-issue, district-operated public school in their neighborhoods unless, perhaps, they were Catholic (or very wealthy).

And here is his list of challenges to be tackled in the future:

  • The basic structural and governance arrangements of American public education are obsolete. We have too many layers, too many veto points, too much institutional inertia. Local control needs to be reinvented—to me, it should look more like a charter school governed by parents and community leaders than a vast Houston- or Chicago-style citywide agency—and education needs to join the mayors’ (and governors’) portfolios of other important human services. Alternatives are emerging—mayoral control in a dozen cities, “recovery” school districts in a few states, and more—but the vast majority of U.S. schools remain locked in structures that may have made sense around 1900, but not in 2014.
  • I dare you to track, count, and compare the dollars flowing into a given school or a given child’s education. I defy you to compare school budgets across districts or states. I challenge you to equalize and rationalize the financing of a district or state education system—and the accounting system that tracks it—in ways that target resources on places and people that need them and that enable those resources—all those resources—to follow kids to the schools they actually attend. What an unfiltered mess!
  • We’re beginning to draw principals, superintendents, chancellors, and state chiefs from nontraditional backgrounds, but we haven’t turned the corner on education leadership. We still view principals, for example, as chief teachers—and middle managers—rather than the CEOs they need to become if school-level authority is ever to keep up with school-level responsibility. We already hold them accountable as executives, but nothing else about their role has yet caught up.
  • Curriculum and instruction. “Structural” reformers—I plead guilty to having been one—don’t pay nearly enough attention to what’s happening in the classroom, in particular to what’s being taught (curriculum) and how it’s being taught (pedagogy). The fact is that content matters enormously—E.D. Hirsch Jr. of the Core Knowledge Foundation is exactly right about this—and that some instructional methods work better in particular circumstances than others. Both standards-based and choice-based reform have remained largely indifferent to these matters, but that ought not continue.
  • High-ability students. Smart kids deserve education tailored to their needs and capabilities every bit as much as youngsters with disabilities. And the nation’s long-term competitiveness—not to mention the vitality of its culture, the strength of its civic life, and much more—hinges in no small part on educating to the max those girls and boys with exceptional ability. Yet gifted education in America is patchy at best; at worst, it’s downright antagonistic to the needs of these kids.
  • Preparation of educators. How many times do people like former Teachers College President Arthur Levine and organizations like the National Council on Teacher Quality have to document the failings of hundreds upon hundreds of teacher- and principal-preparation programs before this gets tackled as a top-priority reform? Once again, promising alternatives are emerging, and a smallish number of traditional programs do a fine job. But, once again, the typical case is grossly inadequate.
  • Two forms of complacency alarm me. The familiar one is the millions of parents who deplore the condition of American schools in general but are convinced that their own child’s school is just fine (“… and that nice Ms. Randolph is so helpful to young Mortimer”). The new one, equally worrying, is reformers who think they’ve done their job when they get a law passed, an evaluation system created, or a new program launched, and then sit back on their haunches, give short shrift to implementation, and defy anyone who suggests that their proud accomplishment isn’t actually working.
  • I hail the entry into the education reform camp of entrepreneurs with all their energy, imagination, and venture capital, but I’ve seen too many examples of their settling for making their venture profitable for shareholders rather than kids. That’s not so different from traditional adult interests within the public and nonprofit sectors battling to ensure their own jobs, income, and comfort rather than giving their pupils top priority. A firm that’s just in it for the money is as reprehensible as a teachers’ union that’s in it just to look after its members’ pay, pensions, and job security.

Despite the fact that his challenges outweigh his gains by a factor of 4, the tone of his article is still quite positive: Finn believes in the new generation of reformers and the ability to transform American education.

For more information, please visit: http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/08/27/02finn.h34.html