The idea seemed like common sense: Engage the most effective teachers, ask them to come up with ideas for improving schools, and share what they know with their peers. And along the way, support these educators with time, resources, and a network they can lean on and learn from.
Perhaps surprisingly, that’s the exception around the country – but increasingly, that’s the norm in Tennessee. It’s still a work in progress, but teachers here have built something the country can learn from.
We’re eight years into building the Tennessee Teacher Leader Network, in which highly effective teachers serve in the classroom while taking on leadership roles such as peer mentoring, writing model lessons, delivering professional development, and more. At the state level, we help teacher leaders receive training and networking opportunities, and we support districts in developing and sharing teacher leader programs. As teacher leaders and policymakers, we also get together through roundtables and convenings to exchange ideas about moving education in Tennessee forward.
Creating career opportunities for teachers beyond moving them into administrative roles aligns with other steps we’re taking to support and retain highly effective educators. All this is adding up to increased teacher effectiveness and student achievement. Tennessee’s annual Educator Survey shows that 85 percent of our teachers feel encouraged to participate in school leadership roles, and feedback from district administrators continues to be supportive of these efforts.
While some states still use outdated teacher-pay rules that may block districts from paying teachers more for serving in leadership roles, Tennessee supports differentiated compensation for teachers, which allows district leaders to boost compensation for teacher leaders. In Tennessee, we also allow districts to use federal Title II funds to support teacher leadership programs. It’s rewarding to branch out professionally through a leadership network, and receiving financial compensation for the extra work is both professional and justified.
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To read a case study of the work being done in Tennessee from Chiefs for Change, see http://chiefsforchange.org/policy-paper/5665/