The CLASS Project: Empowering Educators, Raising Student Achievement

class project logoAgainst a statewide backdrop of sliding student achievement levels, widening education inequities, and high levels of teacher dissatisfaction, the CLASS Project—an Oregon nonprofit initiative—has made sharp gains in all of these areas while simultaneously improving the working relationships between various education system stakeholders.

But what exactly IS the Creative Leadership Achieves Student Success (CLASS) Project?

The CLASS Project is a teacher-led education reform plan that is working in Oregon (with more than 45 percent of Oregon’s schoolchildren in CLASS districts) and has been lauded by former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan as “a tremendous example of successful work that should be taken to scale.

With an emphasis on accelerating student achievement by improving educator effectiveness, the initiative has helped districts re-imagine school culture by empowering teachers to lead improvement efforts at their schools.

The CLASS Project was one of the first initiatives to focus on teacher leadership and professionalization as the pathway to student success, and it is doing so via a model that emphasizes grassroots customization and consensus-building processes.

The model itself contains four key components:

  1. New career paths:

Research shows that teachers perform better and have higher job satisfaction when there are  clear opportunities for them to show leadership, such as mentoring, instructional coaching, district curriculum advising, and administrative opportunities.

  1. Meaningful performance evaluations:

Clear standards  advance the quality of teaching and learning and measure student achievement in multiple ways.

  1. Relevant professional development opportunities:

Providing support and resources for teachers to improve their teaching practice can impact both their effectiveness and their job satisfaction; examples include early-career mentorship, paid leave for trainings, cultural competency skills, and subject-specific training.

  1. Expanding compensation for new roles and responsibilities:

The most controversial reform category creates alternatives to traditional salary scales to reflect expanded teacher responsibilities and leadership, professional growth, and student outcomes.


The CLASS Project has significantly elevated student achievement in Oregon, a state with low performance rankings. In CLASS districts, achievement gaps between white, middle-class students and students of color and students from low-income backgrounds have narrowed. The Class Project has fostered a systemic approach to transforming school culture, elevating teacher voice and building a collaborative environment among teachers, administrators, school board, union, and district officials. It has improved teacher job satisfaction, teaching conditions, and retention.

To read more, see the full report.

Or see the executive summary.