Skip to Content

TLC success leans on clarity of goals, asking hard questions

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Editor’s note: Iowa Department of Education Director Ryan Wise delivered this speech to participants from around Iowa at this week’s Teacher Leadership and Compensation Conference held in Des Moines.

I am so inspired to look out at this room of over 800 educators, all committed to harnessing the power of teacher leadership for the benefit of our students. 

Iowa is the unrivaled leader in cultivating teacher leadership. More than 10,000 teachers hold fully defined and compensated leadership roles across all 327 school districts as part of the Teacher Leadership and Compensation system. 

Part of the strength of the TLC system is the clarity of the goals:

  1. Attracting and retaining excellent teachers;
  2. Promoting collaboration;
  3. Rewarding professional growth and effective teaching by providing pathways for professional opportunities that come with increased responsibilities and compensation; and
  4. Improving student achievement by strengthening instruction.

Through our focus on teacher leadership and our shared goals, Iowa has transformed the teaching profession for the better.

Teachers no longer shut the door to their classroom and engage with other teachers a few times a year for professional development of varying quality and limited connection to their actual jobs, as was often the case when I was a teacher. They engage regularly in connected, high-quality professional learning and collaborate daily with their colleagues.

During my weekly school visits, I hear several key themes.

First, teachers feel their voice is being heard in new and important ways. They feel a greater ownership over decision-making, particularly as it relates to designing and delivering professional development for their colleagues. 

Second, those teachers taking on these roles feel energized and inspired.  In turn, this enthusiasm is spreading throughout their buildings.

Third, new teachers are experiencing more support than they anticipated. In addition to having a mentor, they are taking advantage of working with coaches and model teachers.

Finally, teachers are experiencing increased opportunities for collaboration and are engaging in data-driven conversations with their colleagues focused on student achievement and student learning.

In addition to each of these positive trends, teachers and administrators in the schools I’ve visited have also demonstrated a commitment to continuous improvement.  They’ve identified ways, based on data and staff input, to improve their plans to ensure they achieve the goals they’ve set.

And today is all about continuous improvement. Today is about taking a systemic approach to elevating teacher leadership and it’s about examining those components that are essential in maximizing the impact of teacher leadership on student learning.

As we’ll here from our keynote speaker, Joellen Killion, effectively using teacher leadership requires “…thoughtful planning, deliberate support, continuous evaluation, and ongoing upgrades. How teacher leadership is defined, implemented, evaluated, and continuously upgraded matters in its success.”

Today is also about digging in to your school’s approach to leadership and asking hard questions:

  • How clear are your goals for the impact of teacher leadership?
  • Do teachers in your district view themselves as leaders and what barriers and opportunities does their disposition toward leadership create?
  • What more can you do to create the supporting conditions for teacher leadership?
  • And have you put in place effective and ongoing formative and summative assessment of teacher leadership’s effects on students, schools, school systems, and teachers?

Finally, today is also about celebrating the success teacher leadership has already achieved in Iowa. At its core, teacher leadership both elevates the teaching profession and improves student learning. Thank you again for your commitment to building the profession and meeting the needs of the learners you serve.

Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on August 18, 2022 at 11:37am.