Collective Teacher Leadership

Creating and Sustaining Influence on Stakeholders

Years of research have shown that the best predictor of student achievement is an effective teacher in the classroom. As state and federal accountability standards have increased so, too, has the need for teachers to take on differing types of leadership roles.

A few years ago, Linda Davin and Sequin Eubanks of the NEA were a part of the Teacher Leadership Exploratory Commission that developed model standards to define and describe the many standards of teacher leadership. These standards are:

• Fostering a Collaborative Culture to Support Educator Development and Student Learning

• Accessing and Using Research to Improve Practice and Student Leadership

• Promoting Professional Learning for Continuous Improvement

• Facilitating Improvements in Instruction and Learning

• Promoting the Use of Assessments and Data for School and District Improvement

• Improving Outreach and collaboration with Families and Community

• Advocating for Student Learning the Profession

A guiding premise for this work was the definition of Teacher Leadership: “… the process by which teachers…influence their colleagues, principals, and other members of the school community to improve teaching and learning practices with the aim of increased student learning and achievement.”

If you reflect on the very first part of this definition, you will see an alignment with TSTA’s emphasis on organizing for power. After all, the aim of organizing for power is to influence others to act with self-interest for creating better public schools. You cannot separate a teacher’s working conditions from a student’s learning environment. This is one reason why teacher leadership, like association leadership, is critical to elevating teaching as a profession.

Teachers often become leaders in their schools through a variety of means. It’s about personal and professional expertise rather than positional authority. Teacher leaders are teachers who are (1) respected by their peers; (2) engaging in continuous learning; (3) modeling effective practices; and (4) exercising their influence in formal and informal situations. In short, teacher leaders make schools better places for all stakeholders and facilitate student learning.

From a purely organizational perspective — building the capacity and power of your local association — Seashore Louis, Leithwood et al have shown that “collective leadership” has a stronger influence on student learning and school decisions than either staff teams or individual teachers. Imagine the impact on a campus that the collective leadership of the TSTA members could have by acting together. This is especially critical as increasing federal and state accountability systems recognize the impact good (and bad) teaching has on a campus.

Teacher leadership — even with the engagement of association members — requires a different paradigm for the teaching profession when the status quo is no longer an option for a struggling school or during budget crunches where RIF’s may occur. The concept of the “teacher as leader” has the opportunity to make profound changes in our public schools, including increasing the likelihood of keeping Gen “Y” teachers in the classroom, and attracting an ever increasing number of millenials into the profession who might not otherwise become teachers. Teacher leadership is not just the life blood of our public schools – it is also a means for developing the leadership capacity of our local associations.