Teach to Lead Initiative Expands Opportunities for Teacher Leadership


The US Department of Education has released a fact sheet that explains a new initiative called Teach to Lead, an effort to improve the quality of instruction and learning in American schools.

As the bar is being raised higher than ever for student achievement, the job of being an American teacher has become more critical to the success of students and to the financial success of our communities and country. Progress has included a record high graduation rate, narrowed achievement gaps, and a larger number of students, particularly African-American and Hispanic students, attending an institution of higher education.

This progress has occurred because teachers across the country are ‘taking the lead’ in their classrooms and are willing to incorporate new roles to improve education for all students, the Department says. The profession of teaching becomes stronger when teachers are empowered to take the lead in their classrooms, and when teaching becomes stronger, students benefit – the very idea that Teach to Lead is all about.

Launched in March, 2014, Teach to Lead is a joint effort of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards and the US Department of Education to broaden opportunities for teacher leadership, which will, in turn, improve student outcomes. These opportunities are especially valuable when the result is allowing teachers to stay in the classroom. This means that fundamental changes in the culture of schools and in the teaching profession may allow teachers to have a more central role in policy development that affects 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.” 

Scholastic, Inc. recently polled teachers and found that only one-third felt their voices are heard in the district in which they teach. A mere 5% said they felt they were heard at the state level, and just 2% believed that their opinion mattered at the national level. Not listening to the voices of teachers and not respecting the expertise of teachers has a strong bearing on students, schools, policies, and programs, as well as the teaching profession itself, claims the Department.

Teach to Lead is offering a platform for teachers who want to share their ideas for improving education in their schools, districts, and states, get input from their peers, be a part of education policy decisions or mentor new teachers. When teacher leadership efforts are put into practice, they increase the pathways and opportunities for teachers to participate in leadership roles. The inaugural year of Teach to Lead resulted in almost 2,500 educators sharing their leadership ideas through an online platform.

Because partnerships, in-person networking, and collaboration are so powerful, Teach to Lead has organized a series of regional Teacher Leadership Summits. The idea is to bring together “idea teams” of educators and smaller Teacher Leader Labs to offer a forum for teachers to focus on one idea to establish or expand teacher voice and leadership.

To find where and when a Summit is scheduled and to investigate resources offered by Teach to Lead, visit teachtolead.org.