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Teach Plus California Policy Fellows Identify Teacher Leadership as Key Ingredient in School Improvement Under ESSA

March 6, 2017

In New Policy Brief, Teachers Propose a System of Teacher-Led Professional Development and School Collaboration to Help Struggling Schools

Teachers Speak to Their Recommendations at California State Board of Education Meeting on March 8

LOS ANGELES, CA—As California readies its state plan under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), Teach Plus California Policy Fellows are putting the spotlight on teacher leadership as an essential component in school improvement efforts.  In their newly-released policy brief “Teacher Leadership: A Key Lever in School Improvement and Turnaround” the Fellows, all of whom are Los Angeles public school teachers with deep experience working in high-need schools, propose a system of school support that leverages teachers’ leadership and their capacity to make changes in struggling schools.   

"As a teacher in a striving Title I school, I daily realize the importance of collaboration among colleagues.  All of us―students, parents, school staff, and community― benefit,” said Chris Hofmann, a 4th grade teacher at KIPP Raices Academy in East Los Angeles and one of the brief’s authors. “Our hope is that the state will move forward in bringing teacher leadership to the table when it comes to supporting our schools." 

The Fellows released their brief in conjunction with the California State Board of Education Meeting on March 8. At the meeting, three of the authors will offer public comments based on their recommendations.

As part of the brief, the Fellows looked at two types of schools in need of support as defined by ESSA― comprehensive support schools and targeted support schools―with districts receiving funds for each. ESSA’s flexible regulations allow schools, districts, and states to choose evidence-based strategies that best meet local needs. 

As the California Department of Education and the California State Board of Education create guidelines for distributing school improvement funds under ESSA, the Fellows recommend that they establish teacher leadership as a criterion for evaluating and approving school improvement plans.  The Fellows emphasize the need for the state’s Local Education Agencies (LEAs), which conduct assessments of school needs and develop intervention plans, to promote teacher leadership and a system of teacher-to-teacher and school-to-school collaboration between high-and low-performing schools.

The Fellows recommend these specific teacher leadership provisions that LEAs could include in school improvement plans:

  • Targeted Support Schools:
    • Recruit and train high-quality current classroom teachers with a track record of success with a specific subgroup to lead professional development on evidence-based instructional practices for teachers at targeted support schools.
  • Comprehensive Support Schools:
    • Ensure collaboration between teachers and school leaders in analyzing findings from school-level needs assessment in order to determine a specific schoolwide intervention from a menu of evidence-based practices.
    • Provide collaborative professional development between high- and low-performing schools in demographically similar communities to facilitate important shifts in instructional practice at comprehensive support schools.
  • All schools:
    • Require all schools to collaborate with teachers to conduct a school-level needs assessment that identifies a school’s strengths and areas of growth.

“ESSA provides a unique opportunity to reshape existing models of school intervention and support and advance educational outcomes for all of California’s students,” said Mike Stryer, California Senior Executive Director.  “We hope that our state listens to effective teachers who know first-hand the integral role teacher leadership plays in school improvement.”

About Teach Plus

Teach Plus empowers excellent, experienced teachers to take leadership over key policy and practice issues that affect their students’ success.  Teach Plus programs are designed to place highly effective teachers at the center of improvements in schools as leaders of their peers and outside schools influencing policy decisions that affect their classrooms.  Since its inception in August 2007, Teach Plus has grown to a network of more than 23,000 solutions-oriented teachers across the country.  www.teachplus.org

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