Across the education field, there is unusual consensus that strong teacher leaders are key to improving schools. Unfortunately, clear expectations for what teacher leaders should do, and strategies to prepare them to do it well, are rare. Recent research from the Council of Great City Schools found that 86 percent of urban districts have teacher leader roles, but only 32 percent offer specialized training for the responsibilities that go with those titles.
It doesn’t have to be this way. At schools with true teacher leaders, carefully selected and well-prepared adults are supported to gradually master key skills and are granted a meaningful voice in school leadership. They work as a team to make hiring decisions, set curriculum, design training, and establish practices based on their various sources of expertise. They make school leadership more inclusive for teachers and more sustainable for principals. And they accelerate student learning — research shows schools have better academic outcomes when leadership is shared.
Untapped draws on promising evidence from our Emerging Leaders program to identify policies and practices that can unleash the transformative potential of teacher leaders. Companion resources recommend specific steps that education leaders, training providers, and government officials can take to strengthen teacher leadership.
If the point of teacher leadership is to improve teaching and learning, thrusting teachers into leadership roles without adequate training does a double disservice.
It takes teaching time away from the educators best prepared to accelerate student learning, and then fails to equip them with the skills they need to lead colleagues to similar success.
With quality training, we can reverse this trend and unleash the transformative potential of teacher leadership.
Teacher leaders can immediately boost student learning in their schools. More than 70 percent of participants achieved notable gains in student achievement across classrooms they supervised during their training year.
Teacher leaders can quickly develop and apply critical leadership skills. Participants made significant, measurable gains in high-impact areas, such as using student data and coaching to improve instruction.
Teacher leaders can fill gaps in the leadership pipeline. After one year of Emerging Leaders, 80 percent of participants who were accepted to a principal apprenticeship started that training having mastered essential leadership skills.