Thursday, April 17, 2014

Teacher Leadership and Improving Public Ed

Yesterday Real Clear Education published a piece on the use of teacher leadership.
With all the talk on the common core, closing the achievement gap and charter schools/vouchers teacher leadership often gets lost in the shuffle. National conversation turns to taking sides on education issues instead of talking about ways to actual change what happens within schools. 

Real Clear's commentary starts by noting what I believe is the number one problem with education: 
"Many agree: to improve public schooling in America, we must attract and retain more top performing teachers. It's well documented that not enough high-performing individuals - not enough who graduate in the top third of their college classes - enter the profession of teaching today. Of those talented individuals who do enter, far too many leave within five years, for reasons ranging from the lack of long term economic rewards to limited upward mobility. So how can we address issues of professional stagnation to recruit and retain great educators?"

The way to address this, it goes on to note is through teacher leadership- when mentor or leader teachers take time to work with new teachers to improve instruction. 
I've worked in two highly collaborative schools, though with different collaborative models. Both though gave us access to coaches or specialists. This had a huge impact on instruction, how we plan our lessons, view our students' progress and determine what to do for struggling and high achieving students. Those conversations with teacher leaders  aren't a punishment or an intervention for struggling teachers. It's a culture of collaboration that improves practice and in turn student achievement. 
The article goes on to say, "There is a risk in applying the blunt instrument of business school leadership lessons in the educational setting. We should stop calling teacher leadership "teacher leadership" and consider "peer influencer."

This too is true. To make meaningful connections and collaborative relationships teachers need peer influencers as opposed to leaders. Telling someone how to teach will not have the long lasting success of telling someone why to teach a certain way, how to improve instruction, and inspiring thoughtful conversations about improving practice.

I highly recommend reading the article because it brings up excellent points about the use of using teacher leaders in schools. 

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