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Matt Homrich-Knieling November 11, 2022

Teacher Leadership Career Ladders: Why They Matter for Teachers and Students

Matt Homrich-Knieling

Writer and Educator

No one knows the needs of your school’s students better than the teachers who work with them every day. There is so much untapped potential and impact to be found when you develop teacher leaders.

When school administrators offer opportunities for their teachers to grow as leaders and develop a career ladder, it creates positive ripple effects throughout the entire school.

And the impact isn’t for teachers alone! When they feel positive about their professional trajectory, affect on students, and overall job satisfaction, it leads to better student learning, stronger professional support systems, and an increased sense of school community.

Not sold yet? Keep reading for the four areas of improvement that can be found from creating teacher leadership ladders.

1. Teacher retention

Many teachers want more professional opportunities in their schools. In fact, recent survey data indicates that 60 percent of teachers believe that “opportunities for additional responsibility and advancement while staying in the classroom [is] very important or absolutely essential.” Despite this, there are often very limited opportunities for professional advancement for teachers who wish to remain in the classroom.

If districts were able to provide classroom teachers with access to leadership opportunities and roles, they would support creating conditions that not only retain teachers, but that invest in the talent, skill, and impact of those teachers. 

2. Student growth

When students have access to highly-skilled, impactful, and research-based teaching, their learning grows tremendously. Research actually shows that teachers, out of all over factors, have the largest impact on students’ academic success.

This is also an issue of equity, as schools in low-income communities are most impacted by teacher turnover. Therefore, investing in teacher access to leadership and support can address issues of teacher turnover that disproportionately impact the learning and growth of low-income students and students of color.

If you want to see academic growth in your students, invest in your teachers. If you want to invest in your teachers, create explicit and intentional career ladders that provide the pathways to leadership that teachers, and their students deserve.

3. Peer professional support 

Recent reports show that over half of teachers feel a lack of support in their schools. Investing in teacher leaders is one way to create internal structures for support. If teachers–especially early career teachers–had easy access to professional coaching, mentorship, and models of successful teaching, they would no doubt feel more supported. By establishing clear pathways for leadership advancement for teachers, accompanied with professional training along the way, you are creating an environment where professional support and models of effective teaching are highly accessible and robust.

Moreover, supported teachers aren’t only more likely to remain in the classroom – they’re more likely to have a greater impact in their classroom. Rather than staying stagnant in their practices, teachers with access to ongoing mentoring and coaching are striving to improve their practice daily.

4. Strong school community

Investing in teacher leadership is an investment in your school’s sense of community. Rather than working in silos, creating opportunities for leadership means more time for collaboration, partnership, and support amongst teachers. School leadership structures are often very top-down, which can create a sense of ‘us vs. them’. This rigid divide between who has institutional power and leadership and who does not can breed resentment and a lack of trust, which not only harms teachers, but students as well.

On the other hand, when schools invest in the leadership of their teachers, they work towards creating an environment where leadership is shared and visible. This shift can help schools establish a meaningful and healthy sense of community.

Learn more about how you can invest in your teachers’ leadership capacities and trajectories at our webinar: Teacher Leadership Career Ladder: Improve Teacher Retention and Early Career Success

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