Interim study of Iowa’s teacher leadership system shows positive results

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The first school districts to launch teacher leadership plans through Iowa’s Teacher Leadership and Compensation System reported a positive impact on educators’ professional climate and classroom instruction, according to an interim evaluation report released today by the Iowa Department of Education.

Teachers and administrators in the first 115 school districts chosen to launch teacher leadership plans - 39 districts in the 2014-15 school year and 76 in 2015-16 - reported greater availability, frequency and quality of teacher leadership roles, support through professional development, and collaboration among teachers compared to school districts that had not yet entered the system. Teachers and administrators also reported the system had improved instruction, teacher satisfaction and professional climate.

The interim report, conducted by American Institutes of Research (AIR), concluded it’s too soon to determine how the teacher leadership system is impacting student achievement. This is because the benefits of the support structures put in place for teachers may not yet be apparent. A data analysis - focused only on the 39 districts in their second year of implementation during the 2015-16 school year - showed students improved slightly less on state assessments than their counterparts in other Iowa school districts.

“Iowa’s teacher leadership system is about supporting the complex work of teaching so that teachers can do their best work, which will position students to do their best work,” Iowa Department of Education Director Ryan Wise said. “The investment we’ve made in Iowa’s Teacher Leadership and Compensation System will have a lasting return over the long term. This interim report shows we’re heading in the right direction and, at the same time, a lot of work lies ahead.”

Wise announced the report during a conference call with reporters. He was joined by Sioux City Superintendent Paul Gausman, teacher Kevin Ericson of the Nevada Community School District and instructional coach Andrea Townsley of the Benton Community School District.

Iowa’s Teacher Leadership and Compensation System taps into the expertise of teachers to improve instruction and raise student achievement. 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 instead of operating largely in isolation.

The system is the centerpiece of the landmark education reform package adopted by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Branstad in 2013. It is the nation’s most comprehensive teacher leadership system.

AIR’s interim report aimed to evaluate the early progress of Iowa’s teacher leadership system in meeting its five goals: attracting new teachers, retaining effective teachers, promoting collaboration, rewarding professional growth and effective teaching, and improving student achievement.

The report’s findings were based on teacher and administrator surveys, interviews and focus groups as well as student achievement data.

This is the first year that all 333 Iowa school districts are implementing teacher leadership plans, although at varying stages. One in four Iowa teachers now holds a formal, compensated teacher leadership role. The system costs $150 million annually.

Iowa’s teacher leadership system was phased in statewide over three years. School districts were chosen for the system based on recommendations from the Commission on Educator Leadership and Compensation, which evaluated applications. District plans must include a vision and goals, as well as a rigorous selection process for leadership roles, plans for coaching new teachers, and a minimum teacher salary of $33,500.

Ongoing evaluation is a key component of Iowa’s teacher leadership system. In addition to AIR’s interim report, the Iowa Department of Education compiles summary end-of-year reports from participating school districts and is supporting the Commission on Educator Leadership and Compensation’s development of a teacher leadership status report. The Department also is required to submit a legislative report every three years; the first will be submitted in early 2017.

“Students and schools today face higher expectations, and if we are to improve instruction and student achievement we must support the complex role of teaching,” Wise said. “I’m proud that so many education stakeholders share this commitment. Together, we will facilitate changes that create a better learning environment for teachers and students alike.”

To read the AIR report, visit the Iowa Department of Education’s website: