Iowa’s teacher leadership system empowers teachers, impacts student achievement
New reports show school districts are gaining ground in student achievement, teacher retention
Iowa’s Teacher Leadership and Compensation (TLC) system continues to strengthen the teaching profession and improve classroom instruction, with a significant increase in school districts reporting they met local goals for student achievement in the 2017-18 school year, according to two new reports released Wednesday by the Iowa Department of Education.
Iowa has the nation’s most extensive teacher leadership system, which taps into the expertise of top teachers to strengthen instruction and raise student achievement.
An end-of-year report from school districts showed teacher leadership was a factor in student achievement gains, with 56 percent of districts reporting they fully or mostly met their local student achievement goals in the 2017-18 school year. This is up from 50 percent of districts the year before. Student achievement goals are based on multiple measures, such as the state test, literacy screening assessments and student engagement data.
“Educating our children for the knowledge economy is critical to our state’s future, and it’s vital Iowa’s teachers have the necessary tools for their success,” Gov. Kim Reynolds said. “Each year, we invest more than $159 million in rewarding teachers with leadership opportunities and mentoring roles. Our TLC approach attracts the most promising teachers with competitive starting salaries and fosters greater collaboration among teachers. A quality education is priceless and opens the door to greater achievement for Iowans of all ages.”
“TLC is keeping great teachers in the classroom and elevating the teaching profession – and the numbers back that up,” Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg said. “This report shows that a majority of districts credit TLC’s salary increases and leadership roles for retention of their teachers.”
The same report showed 89 percent of school districts met local goals for attracting and retaining teachers in the 2017-18 school year, up from 85 percent the year before. Most districts credited the teacher leadership system’s salary increases and meaningful leadership opportunities with their success in retaining all or most of their teachers.
A second report, conducted by American Institutes for Research, identified common strategies that led to successful implementation of teacher leadership plans in six Iowa school districts.
“Iowa is a trailblazer in teacher leadership, which is about supporting and empowering teachers to do their best work so that students can do their best work,” Iowa Department of Education Director Ryan Wise said. “We’ve known for some time that Iowa’s teacher leadership system is elevating the teaching profession, and we’re seeing a positive impact on student achievement as well.”
The strategies included establishing full-time instructional coaches, tailoring professional development to meet the individual needs of schools and including teachers and other stakeholders in the planning and implementation of teacher leadership plans.
AIR’s findings are based on case studies of the Audubon, Cedar Falls, Graettinger-Terril, Lewis Central, North Polk and Williamsburg community school districts.
As part of its teacher leadership plan, the Lewis Central Community School District established full-time instructional coaches who mentor new teachers, provide coaching and co-teaching and tailor professional development around school-specific needs.
“Our instructional coaches were the best thing for us as far as support close to the classroom,” Kim Jones, Lewis Central’s curriculum and instruction coordinator, said. “We can help people see strategies, we can have a workshop, but this is support in the classroom that is embedded. That was a huge piece that was missing before the teacher leadership plan.”
Iowa’s Teacher Leadership and Compensation system is the centerpiece of an education reform package proposed by the Branstad-Reynolds administration and adopted by legislators in 2013. The system rewards effective teachers with leadership opportunities, attracts promising teachers with competitive starting salaries and support and fosters greater collaboration for all teachers to learn from each other.
The system was phased in over three years. The 2017-18 school year marked the second year involving all Iowa school districts.
More than 25 percent of teachers in all 330 school districts are in leadership roles, such as instructional coaches and mentors. Iowa invests $159.4 million in the system annually.