Fact Sheet: Teach to Lead

Archived Information

Fact Sheet: Teach to Lead

July 27, 2015

At a time when educators are raising the bar for student achievement higher than ever, the job of the American teacher has never been more critical to the success of students and to the prosperity of our communities and our country. Teachers are helping to catalyze great progress in education, including our nation’s record high school graduation rate, narrowed achievement gaps, and a larger number of young people—particularly African-American and Hispanic students—attending college. This progress is possible because—across the country—teachers are leading from their classrooms and taking on new roles to improve education for all students. The state of the teaching profession becomes stronger when teachers are empowered to lead—and when teaching is stronger, students benefit. This simple, yet powerful, idea is the basis for an initiative called Teach to Lead.

Launched in March 2014, Teach to Lead is a joint effort of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and the U.S. Department of Education to advance student outcomes by expanding opportunities for teacher leadership, particularly those that allow teachers to stay in the classroom. The initiative seeks to spur fundamental changes in the culture of schools and the teaching profession so that teachers can play a more central role in the development of policies that affect their work.

“Teachers in small towns, suburbs, and big cities are leading our nation’s students and schools through a time of transition to higher standards, better assessments and more personalized learning. And for that, teachers deserve our sincerest thanks,” stated U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “During this period of immense change in education, teacher leadership is critical. As a nation, we must do even more to support and empower teachers who wish to share in the responsibility of leading improvement in our schools and in the profession they love.”

According to a recent poll, only one-third of teachers feel that their voices are heard in their district, 5 percent feel heard in their state, and just 2 percent believe that their voices matter at the national level. Failure to leverage the voices and expertise of teachers has deep implications for students, schools, policies and programs, as well as the teaching profession.

As a result of this understanding, Teach to Lead seeks to:

  • Highlight existing state and district systems that are working to support teacher leadership;
  • Share resources to create new opportunities for teacher leadership; and
  • Encourage people at all levels to commit to expanding teacher leadership.

To create systemic and sustained change, Teach to Lead involves stakeholders at every level of education.

Crowdsourcing Teacher Leadership

Teach to Lead offers teachers a platform to share their ideas for improving education in their school, district, or state and to gain input from their peers in creating action plans to achieve goals. Whether it’s engaging teachers in education policy decisions or mentoring the next generation of teachers, ideas may reflect existing teacher leadership efforts or spur entirely new concepts.

Successful teacher leadership efforts often:

  • Increase pathways and opportunities for teachers to exercise leadership, especially those that allow teachers to continue teaching;
  • Elevate teacher voice and influence in policy and practice; and/or
  • Expand existing efforts and create models for the field of effective teacher-led work.

During Teach to Lead’s inaugural year, nearly 2,500 educators shared their teacher leadership ideas through an online community.

Teacher Leadership Summits and Labs

While technology can serve as a useful tool for facilitating dialogue and partnerships, in-person networking and collaboration is hugely powerful, particularly when an effort must be grounded in a local context and involve many contributors. Recognizing the potential of in-person gatherings to generate even stronger and more tailored teacher leadership efforts, Teach to Lead has organized a series of regional Teacher Leadership Summits. These summits bring together “idea teams” of educators, while smaller Teacher Leader Labs offer a forum for educators to focus on one idea to establish or expand teacher voice and leadership.

The summits and labs have been held in select communities identified as having strong potential for teacher leadership to take root or grow for greater impact. Both events lead to meaningful teacher leadership commitments by schools and districts and offer an opportunity for educators to work together to create detailed plans of action.

Teach to Lead and its supporter organizations have held regional summits engaging about 550 educators in Louisville, Ky.; Denver, Colo.; and Boston, Mass. More information on the summits can be found here.

Teacher Leadership Labs have been held in Marshall, Michigan; Hartford, Connecticut; Mission, South Dakota; Springfield, Illinois; Portland, Oregon; Gilbert, Arizona; and Boston,  involving nearly 600 teachers. More information on the labs can be found here.

Stories from the Field

For example, four teachers from a rural middle school in Marshall, Michigan, who were tired of seeing their at-risk students continue to fall through the cracks, took action. Through a Teach to Lead Leadership Lab, the teachers secured partnerships with local organizations, universities and health care providers to build a community school with a healthcare clinic that will provide services to kids living in poverty. Soon, children will arrive at school without toothaches, chronic asthma, or undiagnosed and untreated trauma. The community is stepping up so that their children can learn, and these teachers didn’t have to quit their jobs or become principals to be leaders.

Chris Todd, a teacher at Windsor High School in Connecticut and the teacher leader in residence for the Connecticut State Department of Education, is developing a statewide database of teacher leaders who can give districts and the state advice on policy development. The teacher leaders in the database also will receive training to improve their leadership skills.

In Owensboro, Kentucky, teacher Jana Bryant has been working with two schools in the Daviess County district to address the lack of hybrid teacher positions because of funding constraints. Since attending the Teach to Lead Summit in Louisville, she has created co-teaching positions in Advanced Placement subjects like language, history, pre-calculus and physics so that the teachers can work together to develop cross-discipline lessons for students.

Library media specialist Kim Yeaw at East Providence School District in Rhode Island created a one-year program for new teachers to provide mentorship, training and coaching. The Teacher Retention and Induction Network, or TRAIN, is expanding to its second and third year of support for new teachers. The program is led by consulting teachers who have three years of coaching training at the Rhode Island Department of Education’s New Teacher Center.

Supporter Organizations

To date, Teach to Lead has attracted more than 80 supporter organizations, and the list continues to grow. Supporting organizations help teachers submit leadership ideas for upcoming summits and provide resources and follow-up support.

Learn More and Get Involved

For more information about Teach to Lead and ways to become involved, visit teachtolead.org.