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Instructional Leadership Corps Aims to Transform California's Teaching

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By Ann Jaquith, Melissa Gilbert, and Linda Bauld

Grounded in the belief that teachers can take charge of their own learning—and learn from and contribute to the learning of others if they are supported to do so—the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE), the California Teachers Association (CTA) and the National Board Resource Center (NBRC) at Stanford University have partnered to form a state-wide Instructional Leadership Corps (ILC).  

Designed to function as a capacity-developing entity, the ILC was formed to grow the ability of local educators to enrich instruction and assessment practices in their schools, improve student learning, and create professional learning experiences for other educators.  The professional learning that the ILC develops and leads will increase local capacity for better teaching so that all students in California can be well prepared for college, career, and life.  Developing this knowledge of meaningful instruction and instructional leadership know-how at the local level—in every school, district and county office of education—will require a significant investment of resources and a bold vision for continuous learning.

An Uncommon Partnership

The uncommon partnership among the state's largest teachers' union, Stanford University, and a network of accomplished National Board certified teachers uniquely positions the ILC to stimulate real change on a large scale.  Each organization brings particular strengths and expertise to achieving the ambitious project goals.  For example, the project taps into an accomplished and engaged teaching force through the CTA's 325,000 members and the NBRC's connection to 6,000 National Board Certified Teachers in California.  This corps of accomplished teachers and leaders will provide expertise in subject area instructional shifts and support the implementation of practices needed to grow cultures of continuous learning in our schools.  Members of the ILC are leveraging their expertise, contributing resources to local schools and districts and thereby growing the local capacity necessary to improve instruction for the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

"Job-Embedded, Continuous, and High Quality"

For effective implementation of these new standards, it is essential that learning opportunities for educators become job-embedded, continuous and of high quality. California policymakers have recognized this need for greater investment of resources in teaching and learning.  California legislators passed one of the most progressive school funding plans in the nation last year allocating $1.25-billion to professional development for teachers, and legislators established a Local Control Accountability Program giving local communities decision-making power about the best use of these resources for their community.  Through the Local Control Funding Formula funds are intended to provide needed resources to schools so that all children receive the meaningful education they deserve.

With over 1,000 school districts in California made up of more than 10,000 schools in which teachers teach one of the most diverse populations of students in the nation, wise decisions about the design of professional learning must be rooted in local knowledge about the needs of particular students, teachers, and the schools in which they work.  The ILC Project provides an approach for organizing professional learning statewide rooted in teachers' expertise and knowledge of the strengths, interests and needs of students in specific contexts.  Through the project, teachers and school administrators will be supported to work together to grow the school conditions in which all teachers routinely engage in meaningful analysis of their instructional practice and examine the effects of their teaching on student learning.

New Pedagogy Needed

The project's ability to develop local capacity for continuous learning is critical because the type of pedagogy needed for the CCSS and NGSS is quite different than what the era of No Child Left Behind testing required of students and teachers. The new standards require students to develop a deep understanding of subject matter, the ability to use knowledge flexibly to solve authentic problems that often require integrating knowledge from several disciplines, to communicate clearly using a variety of formats, and to persist in tackling challenging problems using multiple approaches.   Consequently, the demands on the teaching profession are significantly altered.  The pedagogy CCSS and NGSS demand will take time to master and will require deliberate practice coupled with intentional professional learning.

Through its work, the ILC aims to mobilize California educators to provide meaningful learning experiences to their students every day and transform the way teaching and learning occurs in California classrooms so that all students are able to learn and perform at high levels. This project also strives to alter the working conditions for teachers in our schools such that they are supported to continuously learn, to develop their instructional and leadership practices, and to design and facilitate professional learning experiences for their colleagues.  As the ILC Project proceeds, its processes and products will be made available to all participating and interested schools and districts via http://www.cta.org/ilc.

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(Ann Jaquith is associate director at the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE) where Melissa Gilbert is project coordinator and research associate.  Linda Bauld is director of the National Board Research Center.)

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