Common Core

Report: Teacher Leadership Is Key to Common Core Success

A new report from the Center for American Progress (CAP) examines districts throughout the country where collaboration between management and unions has given teachers a meaningful voice in implementation of the Common Core State Standards. The report, “Teacher Leadership: The Pathway to Common Core Success,” is itself a collaboration between CAP and the Teacher Union Reform Network (TURN), which helped identify districts that provide opportunities for teacher input into Common Core implementation.

From September 2014 to January 2015, CAP studied districts that varied in size, location, student demographics, socioeconomic status and student academic performance. Researchers conducted listening and learning sessions in Baltimore City Public Schools (MD), Marquardt School District 15 (IL), Poway Unified School District (CA), San Juan Unified School District (CA) and Washoe County School District (NV). These sessions included conversations with district leaders, school administration and teachers, as well as observation during classroom and professional development sessions. Researchers also did phone interviews with Georgetown Exempted Village Schools (OH).

The report found that all of the districts offered teachers similar leaderships opportunities, including the following:

  • Teachers involved in district- and school-level governance. In the profiled districts, teachers serve on school, district, and union governing bodies as a way to ensure that their perspectives are included in decisions made about the standards and other district priorities.
  • Teachers on special assignment. Under this arrangement, teachers have the option of leaving the classroom and working for the district or union, allowing them to support practicing teachers as well as students.
  • Teachers in leadership roles who still actively practice in the classroom. Districts place teachers in leadership positions to help with Common Core transition, while still giving them the chance to teach in the classroom for at least part of the school day.

Teachers in the profiled districts identified the following key areas that they were able to affect positively as a result of the leadership opportunities they were offered:

  • Professional development. Teachers have had the opportunity to direct their own professional learning and to get approval and assistance from teacher leaders.
  • Time for collaboration. Teachers have control over how best to use the time afforded to them by the district for collaboration around the needs of the Common Core. In several districts, teachers determine how to spend collaborative time, and teacher leaders assist in the planning of how the time will be used.
  • Writing, developing and choosing instructional materials. Teachers are involved in the production and selection of instructional materials aligned to the Common Core.

Based on interviews and observations of the teachers in the districts described in the report, CAP has made the following recommendations to districts implementing the Common Core:

  1. Create teacher leadership roles at the classroom, school, and district levels.
  2. Allocate time for teachers to collaborate.
  3. Create systems for embedded teacher professional development.
  4. Give teachers an active role in the selection and development of Common Core instructional materials.

About the Author

Christopher Piehler is the former editor-in-chief of THE Journal.

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