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Local School Districts Join Teacher Leadership Program

By Staff | Jan 21, 2016

With the addition of the Graettinger-Terril and Ruthven-Ayrshire and the West Bend-Mallard Community School Districts, all three of Palo Alto County’s school district are now participating in the State of Iowa’s Teacher Leadership and Compensation System.

With the addition of the latest group of 97 school districts to the TLC program, a total of 295 districts in the state now participate in the program, according to Iowa Department of Education Director Ryan Wise.

Iowa’s teacher leadership system taps into the expertise of top teachers in a school district to help improve classroom instruction and raise student achievement, is the centerpiece of Gov. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Reynolds’ landmark education reform package passed by the Legislature in 2013.

School districts in the teacher leadership system are at varying stages.

The Emmetsburg Community School is in its second year of participation in the program.

“This system is about supporting teachers to do their best work so that our students can do their best work,” Wise said. “Students and schools today face higher expectations, and we must support the critical and complex work of teaching in order to improve instruction. We’re doing that through Iowa’s teacher leadership system, and it’s exciting that so many school districts share this commitment.”

The program is the centerpiece of the state’s landmark education reform package passed by the Legislature in 2013. It is the nation’s most comprehensive teacher leadership system. About 25 percent of Iowa teachers will be in leadership roles when the system is fully phased in.

The system paves the way for more support and greater collaboration for all teachers to learn from each other instead of operating largely in isolation within their classrooms.

The remaining 40 school districts will have an opportunity to refine and re-submit their plans for approval in the next two months. Wise said he is hopeful that all of Iowa’s school districts will join the teacher leadership system by the 2016-17 school year.

“I have had the opportunity to visit many school districts with teacher leadership plans, and the feedback has been very positive,” Wise said. “What I’m hearing is that the system empowers teachers and principals to work together in new ways and that teachers have found greater support, opportunities for collaboration, and ownership over decision-making, particularly as it relates to professional development for their colleagues.”

School districts in the teacher leadership system are at varying stages. Some are in their second year, while others are gearing up for participation.

A recent report on the first year of Iowa’s teacher leadership system found progress has been made toward each of the system’s five goals, including attracting new teachers, retaining effective teachers, promoting collaboration, rewarding professional growth and effective teaching, and improving student achievement. In addition, students in the first 39 participating school districts saw a jump in proficiency rates on state math and reading tests.

School districts are chosen for the system based on recommendations of the Commission on Educator Leadership and Compensation, which evaluates applications.

Districts that apply to start teacher leadership systems are required to address “must-haves,” such as setting a minimum teacher salary of $33,500, improving entry into the profession through efforts that include mentoring new teachers, and a rigorous selection process for leadership roles.

The teacher leadership system cost nearly $50 million in fiscal year 2015. That amount is expected to grow to about $150 million annually by fiscal year 2017, which would enable all districts to participate.