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.

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