New Iowa Grant Program Intended to Stimulate Teacher Leadership

This week the state of Iowa rolled out a new grant program intended to encourage and support teacher leadership in Iowa schools. Under the new program, local school districts will apply for state funds to support the development of new leadership roles teachers. Successful veteran teachers could have new roles and responsibilities in areas including peer mentoring or curriculum development. School districts participating in the voluntary program will receive an additional $309 per pupil annually in funding from the state. At full-scale implementation in 2018, the program will have a total estimated price tag of $160 million.

I am supportive of initiatives like this one that encourage the development and use of teacher leaders. Both formal and informal leadership roles for teachers are critically important to school and district improvement. So many effective teachers have leadership abilities that go untapped and/or underdeveloped. If given the time, space, resources, and opportunities, teacher leaders can make key contributions to school improvement in areas including curriculum, instruction, technology implementation, school culture, student support, etc.

My hope is that with these grants, school and district leaders will work extremely hard to not have these new leadership roles for teachers exist only as add-ons teachers’ jobs. Without a doubt, some formal teacher leadership roles are ones that will clearly be in addition to what a teacher’s primary responsibilities are. But leadership ought to become a part of how we think about the teaching profession. From the time an undergraduate student enters a teacher preparation program and throughout a teachers’ career, emphasis should be placed on developing teachers’ leadership capacity and providing them with opportunities to exercise school-level and district-level leadership. Teachers should grow as leaders and have the opportunity to lead throughout the course of their careers, in ways that reflect their strengths and various areas of expertise.

I am excited about what Iowa is doing to promote teacher leadership and develop leaders. Ideally, within a few years, teacher leadership will become such an engrained part of the culture in Iowa schools that with or without additional state funds, teachers in schools across the state will provide key leadership in all sorts of exciting ways. I look forward to seeing the results of this innovative program and I hope to see others follow Iowa’s lead.

Louisiana: East Baton Rouge Parish Superintendent Understands Public Schooling in the Era of Parent Choice

Charter schools are expanding in East Baton Rouge Parish,
Louisiana. In the fall of 2014, new charters have been approved and are scheduled to open in the parish, other charter schools are expanding, and the East Baton Rouge
Parish School Board is bracing for a potential reduction in revenue as a result
of parents choosing to send their children to public charter schools over board-operated
public schools. According to Diana Samuels of the Times Picayune, the school district is bracing
for a potential reduction in revenue in the ballpark of $20 to $22 million, or
about 5% of the district’s general fund budget. The district’s Chief Business
Operations Officer is quoted in the article saying, “Our biggest concern (for
the next budget year) is money going out the door.” That statement isn’t one
that will inspire confidence in the parents of East Baton Rouge Parish. Nevertheless,
I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and say she probably didn’t mean it the way it came out.

But the East Baton Rouge Parish district superintendent’s
statement in response to the district’s revenue concerns is quite different.
Superintendent Dr. Bernard Taylor said, “We’re going to have to fight fire with
fire,” offering that the district must offer curriculum and programs that give district
schools a competitive advantage over charter schools. Dr. Taylor understands
that public education in the United States, and especially in the state of
Louisiana, is entering a new day. Traditional public schools can no longer rest
assured that children will walk through the doors simply because they live in
the neighborhood. In the coming era of parent choice, all schools, whether they
are private, magnet, charter, or traditional public, must compete to attract
and retain students. In the era of parent choice, all schools will become
schools of choice, and schools that refuse to or fail to compete will be forced
to close their doors. That means educational leaders, including
superintendents, school boards, principals, and school governing bodies, will
have to adopt the mindset of Dr. Taylor. If you want to continue to serve students,
you will have to compete for them. Schools will have to give parents reasons to
choose them. With neighborhood traditional public schools as just one of a
growing number of options available to parents, traditional public schools,
just as charter schools, will have to give families good reasons to enroll and

Depending on where you live, that era of parent choice in public education could be near. If you live in Louisiana, that era is already here.