High-performing organizations are dogged about nurturing talent and leveraging it to drive organizational improvement. The organizations that are particularly good at this carefully track both high potential employees and high-performing ones. They think intentionally about the career progression of these employees and incentivize them to both grow their skills and apply them in response to organizational needs. Managers are assessed based on their ability to develop and retain talent, and employees know that if they perform well, they will have opportunities to advance their careers.
The American public education system does almost none of these things, at its peril. To meet the unprecedented demands facing public education, school systems must strategically pursue teacher leadership as a critical lever. This requires first establishing a vision for what teacher leadership can make possible in the system and how it can address identified needs. Having established clarity of purpose, the work then lies in establishing criteria for teacher leaders, defining the roles available (and how they relate to further differentiation of teaching roles), creating time for teachers to lead (and be led by others), and designing a financial model that is viable long term. It also lies in creating the structures, systems, and culture needed at the school and system level to support teacher leadership, and building a strategy that both encourages innovation in teacher leadership and builds incremental systemic change needed to sustain teacher leadership in the long term. There is not a single, right approach. What matters is that systems get started and that they pursue the work intentionally and strategically, learning from their early work (and that of others), guided by an inspiring vision that reaches beyond current roles and responsibilities for teachers.
- Observation: Teacher leadership comprises roles and responsibilities that purposefully use the talents of the most effective teachers towards enhancing student learning, adult learning, and school and system improvement.
- Observation: Different goals that can be achieved by teacher leadership include: creating a culture of collaboration and shared accountability; building capacity and willingness to differentiate instruction according to students' needs; and organizing in a way that highly effective teachers reach a greater number of students.
- Challenge: School systems tend to adopt new teacher leadership roles and compensation in ways that fail to transform old underlying systems and cannot be sustainable.