teacher leaders

Connecting Teacher Leadership and Professional Learning in D.C. Public Schools

How can we best connect teacher leadership to professional learning? What do schools sometimes get wrong - despite their best intentions - and how can we help more schools get it right? With the publication of Igniting the Learning Engine: How School Systems Accelerate Teacher Effectiveness and Student Growth Through ‘Connected Professional Learning', the nonprofit organization Education Resource Strategies highlights promising practices at four leading school systems. They offer examples of what it looks like to deeply connect professional learning to the everyday work of teachers and teacher leaders and to a coordinated, system-wide strategy for student success. They also explore how these systems organize resources like people, time, and money to make this happen.

As a national organization focused on the development of teacher leaders, we at Leading Educators are acutely aware of both the challenge and promise of connected professional learning. With regular opportunities to collaborate and deepen instructional expertise, teacher leaders can play a key role in improving student learning. At the same time, we know that teacher leaders are part of a larger connected system within schools, and their success often depends on the presence of content experts, access to high quality instructional materials, and the necessary time to work with colleagues.

Since 2012, Leading Educators has served as a key strategic partner to DC Public Schools (DCPS), one of four systems profiled in the ERS paper. At the beginning of the partnership, DCPS had just received a federal grant through the Teacher Incentive Fund to increase opportunities for teacher leadership, building on the district’s previous work on teacher evaluation and compensation. Leading Educators partnered with DCPS to provide technical assistance, drawing on our long-standing work with teacher leadership programs in New Orleans and Kansas City, Missouri.

Leading Educators worked with DCPS to launch the Teacher Leadership Innovation (TLI) program at a pilot group of seven schools. In the early years of the program, schools had great latitude in creating teacher leader roles. This meant that school leaders were highly engaged in the process but also that roles varied widely. While these roles added capacity for school leaders, they were not exclusively focused on examining student work or building teacher skills. For many teacher leaders who were new to leadership positions, coaching their former peers created challenging dynamics. Additionally, some schools struggled to protect release time that had been allocated for teacher leader functions when staff turnover occurred and emergencies arose.

As TLI expanded, structures, systems, and training were gradually put in place to address many of the lessons learned from the first cohort of schools. Over time, new teacher leader roles became more narrowly focused on what the paper refers to as “content-focused, expert-led collaboration” instead of tackling both administrative and learning functions. This ensured that principals aligned the roles to the key instructional priorities of their schools. To support TLI participants’ transition into new leadership roles, the program content focused heavily on developing both hard and soft leadership skills. DCPS also focused on helping new teacher leaders develop adult leadership skills. Leading Educators partnered with the district to provide sessions focused on relationship management, addressing topics such as difficult conversations, team dynamics, influence with and without authority, and conversations about difference. This content translated leadership best practices into normed processes and tools.

In addition, Leading Educators worked with DCPS to create systems and structures to support principals in becoming stronger distributive leaders. These included how to strongly connect school priorities to teacher leadership roles - the School Theory of Action - and how to regularly and rigorously analyze formative leadership, teacher practice, and student data - the Quarterly Data Review. Maggie Slye, the Managing Director for Leading Educators’ LEAP team, explains how these structures function in practice:

 

"The Theory of Action serves to anchor the school in its priorities, not just for students and teachers, but also anchors the leadership team in the commitments they’ve made to teachers. By establishing these priorities and commitments collaboratively, the Theory of Action supports alignment and a shared understanding of priorities. Each quarter, a Leading Educators Leadership Coach leads the leadership team to analyze student and/or teacher data to assess what has been accomplished and what may need to be revised. This data cycle - setting goals, assessing progress, and course-correcting - is something many schools do for students. It’s far less frequent to see schools doing this type of analysis for teacher goals and for leadership goals. Our schools emerge from Quarterly Data Reviews not only clearer on the next quarter’s goals for students, but also goals for teacher instructional practice and the leader actions they will take to support teacher development in those instructional practices."

 

Finally, the DCPS central office team, in partnership with school leaders, began to research, create, and share innovative scheduling approaches that would create more release time cost neutrally. With coaching, school leadership teams developed contingency plans so that they could provide sufficient time for productive collaboration even when unforeseen challenges emerged.

Leading Educators has had the honor of learning alongside outstanding DCPS school and central office leaders. Principal Art Mola from Bancroft Elementary shares:

 “It is hard to think of Bancroft and Leading Educators as a partnership. The amazing team at LE has become an intricate part of the Bancroft family in such a way that we do not view them as an external entity, rather a member of our leadership team. And as a result, Bancroft LEAP Leads continue to celebrate the amazing job our LE coach has done with each one of them, and with the whole team. I can confidently say that the quality of our Quarterly Data Reviews has improved exponentially, as we are firmly grounded in our commitment to the Theory of Action, and are already looking forward to next year as we get ready to roll out a more improved version than even now.”

These efforts laid a strong foundation for LEAP. With LEAP, DCPS is leveraging distributive leadership to improve instructional practice in content-specific and job-embedded teams. LEAP has ignited the learning engine by empowering principals and teacher leaders with the structures and tools to drive continuous improvement.

Learning and Practicing Strategies to Improve Instruction with DCPS

In mid-July, approximately 600 educators and school leaders from throughout Washington, DC spent two weeks learning and practicing strategies to improve instruction in schools throughout the city. This intensive effort is part of the District of Columbia Public Schools’ (DCPS) LEAP (LEarning together to Advance our Practice) initiative, and it represents a focus on growing teachers’ leadership capacity within classrooms, throughout schools, and across the entire district.

"I learned so much and developed my capacity as a teacher leader. After these two weeks, I feel more confident in the transformation in our students and teachers that LEAP is going to inspire, and feel more secure in my ability to help lead this work as a teacher leader. I am excited for this year!"

Leading Educators worked in close partnership with DCPS to provide the content and expertise needed to design a tailor-made professional development experience for teacher and school leaders from 115 schools. Over the course of two weeks, participants focused on common core content development, pedagogy for literacy and math instruction, planning for implementation, and equity and leadership.  

"This has been one of the most enriching PDs that I have ever experienced. The videos, the exercises, the culture building activities, the learning and sharing protocols were all very beneficial."

LEAP also marked a significant milestone for Leading Educators. While our focus has gradually evolved over the past five years from working with individual teacher leaders from a number of unrelated schools, to supporting teams of teachers who come from the same school, LEAP pushed our engagement even further. Our partnership with DCPS represents the first time that Leading Educators has brought its model of inquiry, practice, and development to teams of school and teacher leaders throughout an entire school district.

This represents a new phase for our work and the large-scale impact that it can have on student achievement. We are excited to build on this new approach, and look forward to the opportunity to continue to partner with DCPS and other districts around the country that recognize the power of teacher leadership to drive instructional and academic excellence.

DCPS Riding the Wave of Teacher Leadership

Press Release: Stuart Kaplan, Knightsbridge President, Joins Board of Leading Educators

Leading Educators is excited to welcome Stuart Kaplan to our national Board of Directors. See below for the full press release, and see the full list of board members here: http://www.leadingeducators.org/board


Stuart Kaplan, Knightsbridge President, Joins Board of Leading Educators

Brings Expertise in Retaining and Developing High-Potential Talent; Leading Educators Boosts Classroom and Student Success with Focus on Critical Mid-Level Talent

New Orleans, LA (PRWEB) October 16, 2014

Leading Educators, a national nonprofit dedicated to improving teachers’ leadership skills critical for enhancing educator retention and boosting student results, announced today that Stuart Kaplan, President of Knightsbridge USA, has joined the organization’s board. Knightsbridge is a global human capital solutions firm that integrates expertise in finding, developing, and optimizing an organization’s leadership and talent to deliver superior performance.

“Stuart Kaplan is one of the foremost experts in helping organizations develop high-performing and high-potential talent,” CEO Jonas S. Chartock said.

Leading Educators currently serves approximately 500 teacher-leaders, who lead roughly 4,000 teachers and impact a total of 115,000 students in about 200 schools is Houston, Kansas City, New Orleans and Washington, DC.

"Leading Educators achieves an exponential impact on student outcomes by training our country’s best teachers to lead their colleagues in the pursuit of student success. Only by investing in middle leaders can schools effectively support new teachers and build pipelines of future school leaders," said Jonas S. Chartock, CEO of Leading Educators. "Stuart brings an exceptional track record of helping companies achieve superior performance through a similar focus on developing talent, and we’re thrilled to benefit from his experience.”

“Great companies and great educational institutions prioritize retaining and augmenting strong mid-level talent,” said Stuart Kaplan, President of Knightsbridge USA and Leading Educators incoming board member. “Leading Educators is playing a unique role that is essential for driving real, sustainable improvement. Public schools educating lower-income students, in particular, need to continue adopting these talent development practices that have been proven time and again, not only by Leading Educators but also by the best managed companies. I look forward to working with Leading Educators to broaden its reach and impact – one public school district at a time."


Leading Educators runs a two-year Fellowship for middle leaders in schools. The program encompasses targeted training experiences, the community of a peer cohort, and the personal support of a coach in order to leverage leadership and management skills. Leading Educators also provides targeted Strategic Support Initiatives on a contract basis to districts in Denver, Houston, Washington, D.C., and New York City, and in partnership with the Academy for Urban School Leadership, and Teach for America.

Ninety-six percent of teachers who participated in the Leading Educators program are retained in the field of education. Ninety-five percent continue to serve in the region where they began their Fellowship. One hundred percent continue to serve in roles and organizations specifically focused on high-needs populations.

Fellowship Application Opening Today!

We are excited to announce that the application for Fellowship Cohort 2014 will open today! The Fellowship is available to teacher-leaders in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Kansas City, and Washington, D.C.

Interested educators apply this afternoon by clicking on on this link: www.leadingeducators.org/apply 

The application process involves four steps:

Step 1: Online Application

Candidates begin their application for the Leading Educators Fellowship by completing an online application. 

Step 2: Principal Endorsement

An applicant's principal must support the application by submitting a Principal Endorsement online. The Principal Endorsement allows the school leader to describe the leadership role the candidate will play during the following school year and outlines program expectations.

Step 3: Classroom Observation

Based on the Online Application and Principal Endorsement, successful candidates are invited to participate in a 20 to 30 minute classroom observation. This snapshot provides insight into the candidate's instructional skill.

Step 4: Interview and Assessment Days

Candidates that move to the next step in the application process participate in an Interview and Assessment Day. This challenging experience stretches candidates’ leadership skills by engaging them in interviews, role plays, and simulations.

Deadlines and Important Dates 

Kansas City:
Priority I Deadline: Dec. 2
Priority II Deadline: Feb. 3
Final Deadline: March 24
Interviews: April 12 - 26
Final Notification Date: May 2

New Orleans & Baton Rouge:
Priority Deadline: Feb. 10
Final Deadline: March 31
Interviews: April 12 - 23
Final Notification Date: May 2

Washington D.C.:
Dates to be announced soon

Successful candidates will join a cohort of approximately 40 other teacher-leaders from their region, and will work closely with second-year Fellows as well. For more information, please click here to find more information on how to apply, the Fellowship curriculum, and who should apply.

 

A Powerful Case Study on Teacher Leadership

How does developing teacher-leaders yield an “opportunity culture” and greater student success? Check out Public Impact’s case study on our Fellow, Anna Lavely, for answers:

Empowering Teacher-Leaders to Extend Reach by Leading Others

 “I set my expectations so high, but I always think there’s more that can be done,” Lavely says. “I can sometimes be a very black- and-white teacher. If I think something’s really important, teachers will say 80 percent is good. My goal? 100 percent. If you expect a lot, you get a lot."
And that led to what she calls her greatest success: a set of class – rooms proficient in both math and reading – including students in special education and English language learners.
Lavely could not have achieved this kind of result by teaching all the students herself all the time. Her secret was motivating her team members and helping them meet this high bar. The key is encouraging them, she says, and building a “we” culture. “If you walked into a team meeting, here’s what you’d see: It’s in my class-room, not a conference room. We sit in a circle or semicircle, to build that collaborative feel.

Click here to read more.

The case study is part of Public Impact's Opportunity Culture project. Bryan Hassel and Emily Ayscue Hassel explained further in their article, "How One Leading Educators Fellow Extends Her Reach" on

EducationNext

How can schools redesign jobs and use technology to reach more students with excellent teachers? And how can they offer teachers more pay, within budget? Public Impact’s Opportunity Culture project aims to answer both questions. As districts and schools around the country think about extending the reach of excellent teachers, they want real-life examples to show them how to tackle each of these challenges.
In a new case study, we profile Anna Lavely of Kansas, who is participating in a two-year fellowship aimed at developing the leadership of already-excellent teachers. Her story provides one example of how schools can reach more students with great teachers—and of how many programs to increase teachers’ impact still fall short on paying teachers their due, sustainably.

To read the full article, click here.

New Orleans Teacher-Leaders Go National: The ECET2 Conference

Earlier this spring, Leading Educators took four Fellows to the Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teaching and Teachers (ECET2) Conference to share their experiences of teacher-leadership development with other educators from around the country. 

Our two Fellows from New Orleans were struck by the powerful work going on all over the US. In their own words: 

New Orleans Fellow Danielle Bienville reads to her first grade class.
"The most significant thing that I learned was that we are not alone! The educational challenges are real and there are like-minded people across this nation who are striving for the best for our children.  This conference also made me realize how much we do not collaborate in our city or our state.  There is so much competition that if it were not for LE, we would  all be on our own little charter islands.  We must collaborate because two heads are so much better than one and this battle cannot be won alone.
As I move into a new school and new role it will be vital for me to create new relationships and also hold onto old ones, connections between schools must be made, even if a true district does not exist. We can build great ideas together and share triumphs in order to optimize time and increase student achievement. We are ONE!"

-Bridget Burns, a Director of Curriculum and Instruction in Cohort 2011 


"I learned that many teachers and schools around the country are working towards perfecting planning and implementations around the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). I had conversations around the many tools schools are using (i.e. the Literacy Design Collaborative) in order to get students to dig in deep with the texts and content they are studying. Additionally, the sheer collaboration and willingness to share resources, ideas, and tools was inspiring. Teachers around the country who are doing it well want to share with those who are further behind in the spirit of student achievement.
I will bring from the conference a deeper awareness of the CCSS and will be able to explain the reasoning for these standards. I feel I will also be able to advocate for training and resources for teachers around these instructional shifts because I have talked to and witnessed teachers implementing them successfully, specifically in the upper grades.
It was humbling to be surrounded by teachers who have been teaching 15, 20, and even 30 years, a landscape that is increasingly disappearing in New Orleans. These teachers are still perfecting their craft in front of students on a daily basis while they are also able to serve as teacher-leaders. They mentor by example to interns, student teachers, and other veteran teachers. They are tapped to lead professional developments and attend conferences such as ECET2. The experience reaffirmed that I don't need to step out of the classroom in order to lead."

—Danielle Bienville, a Master Teacher of First Grade in New Orleans Cohort 2011