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35 States Have Teacher-Leadership Policies, But Not All Give Extra Pay or Incentives

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A new analysis shows that 35 states now have formal teacher-leadership policies that allow accomplished teachers to both have a hand in school decision making and offer instructional support to others in the building without fully leaving the classroom. 

But only 21 of those states have policies that give teacher-leaders extra pay or other incentives, like a reduction in course load, says the analysis, which was done by the National Council on Teacher Quality. 

"We find this to be exceedingly promising news," said Elizabeth Ross, the managing director of teacher policy at NCTQ and a co-author of the report. "The critically important next step is to make these roles maximally attractive and also sustainable for teachers." 

Teacher-leadership policies are generally implemented at the district level. But having a formal state policy is important to "set the standard" for districts, Ross said. State policies provide a framework for districts, as well as allow them to reallocate funding for a teacher-leadership program.

What a teacher-leadership policy looks like varies from place to place, but typically, it allows a veteran, high-achieving teacher to take on a leadership role while still remaining, at least part-time, in the classroom. Teacher-leaders are often tapped to provide peer coaching, model lessons, plan and deliver professional development, conduct evaluations and observations, and help implement curriculum. Research has shown that having teacher-leadership positions is linked to increased schoolwide student achievement. 


See also: Students Fare Better When Teachers Have a Say, Study Finds


Eleven states have adopted formal teacher-leadership policies in the past two years, while three states (Indiana, Wyoming, and Texas) have discontinued their policies since then, NCTQ found.

But despite the widespread interest from policymakers, not all teacher-leadership policies are created equal: Just 12 states have guidelines that say teacher-leaders should receive both additional compensation and non-monetary incentives, like reduced course loads. Some states, like Minnesota, encourage these practices, but ultimately leave them up to the districts. Other states have funding set aside to provide these incentives themselves—for example, Louisiana gives mentor teachers a $1,000 stipend, and teacher-leaders receive state-provided professional development opportunities. 

Nine other states give teacher-leaders either additional pay or non-monetary incentives, but not both. And 14 states have a teacher-leadership policy that does not explicitly give incentives to teacher-leaders. (An individual district could decide on its own to give extra pay or a reduced course load to teacher-leaders.) 

Without these incentives, "we're adding one more thing onto [teachers'] very full plates," Ross said. "This is additional work, additional responsibility, and an additional role, and it should be compensated accordingly."

NCTQ recommends state policymakers work with districts to create and define formal teacher-leadership positions. Teacher-leaders should have demonstrated classroom effectiveness, subject-area expertise, and the ability to lead adults, the report says. States should also develop programs or guidelines for professional development to support teacher-leaders, NCTQ recommends. 

These opportunities are what teachers "want and need in order to not just be initially attracted into the classroom, but also to make it a career that will be sustainable for them over the long haul," Ross said. 

For a glimpse of what this work can look like in practice, see this Education Week video of teacher leadership in a rural Iowa district:

Image via Getty

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