Maximizing Effectiveness through Shared Leadership

Dr. Mike Stacy is the Chief Academic Officer for Woodford County Schools and is a former elementary, middle and high school administrator.

One reoccurring theme in administrative meetings across the state is the question, “how do we manage all of the new things required by the state and run a school at the same time?” As a district level administrator overseeing curriculum and instruction, I’ve asked myself this question for several months and I’ve only found one solution: We, as administrators, must enable our teacher leaders to lead from the front of the classroom.

Teacher leaders are not a new phenomenon. Nor is the process of developing them to help run an effective school. Our top administrators in the state have been doing this for years with successful instructional and institutional outcomes. Teacher leadership is not new to Kentucky, but as a state-wide system, we have not found enough ways to leverage our most effective teachers on the scale necessary to radically improve teaching and learning.

Until recently, I had not added teacher leadership onto the list of initiatives I had intentionally pursued from my central office position. Teacher leadership was something that I expected good leaders to cultivate and explore on their own…teacher leadership was a principal issue, not mine.

This school year, we have shifted our focus. We have created teacher leader cadres with representatives from every elementary, middle and high school to help amplify and support the most effective teachers in our district. We have made time for our teacher leaders to meet, identify problems of practice and share solutions to various topics, such as, the implementation of our new teacher evaluation system, the role of professional learning in increasing student growth, evaluating the effectiveness of our current grading practices, and improving school climate throughout our district.

Why should we support teacher leadership right now?

It is currently impossible for most principals to complete all of the required tasks on their duty list. Therefore, we must look to teacher leaders and a shared leadership model to help maximize the effectiveness of our schools over the next decade.

Since the start of this school year, I have had the opportunity to be involved in a few teacher leader-based projects with Hope Street Group, CTQ (The Center for Teaching Quality), and Achieve. Coming away from these projects, I am shocked at the wealth of new research and high quality resources available for our teachers and administrators. Why are we reinventing the wheel? How can we leverage the know-how coming from the non-profit sector in education?

In many of the discussions and brainstorming sessions via these teacher leader organizations, we explored how to more effectively leverage and support teacher leaders. I was reminded of many administrative leadership meetings that I’ve attended over the last 15 years. Most of those meetings centered around how I could be a better leader, how I can improve my building, how I can impact change, etc. Over the years I’ve realized that “I” can’t do much of anything. It’s the team I surround myself with and what they can do that’s important.

So why should I support teacher leadership right now?

I believe in building capacity in a school and having a shared leadership model. It is by far the most efficient and effective way to improve teaching and learning.

Neither teacher leaders nor administrators can maximize their leadership potential without the strength and support of one another. If we focus our time, energy, and resources on building teacher leaders but never teach our building leaders how to effectively use them, then we are missing out on a golden opportunity for our students. Experience has shown us that it takes a team of effective professionals to make great leaders, and it takes shared leadership to make a great school.

At the end of the day students are the reasons we all exist in the education profession. We need to always keep their success in the forefront of the various initiatives we initiate and implement. We must find more opportunities for teachers and administrators to work together toward the ultimate goal of continuing to improve teaching and learning. If we do this, we will all become more effective at what we do and Kentucky students will reap the benefits.

For more on education policy and politics in Kentucky, follow @KYEdReport

 

Is Kentucky Invested in the Future?

Not yet, according to Brad Clark, a Hope Street Group Fellow and teacher in Woodford County.

He writes passionately about the need to properly invest in Kentucky’s future by investing in its students and teachers.

He notes the need for additional resources in schools:

I am not exaggerating when I say that the fourth grade textbook we use to teach Kentucky History in 2014 is the exact same textbook — with a picture of Daniel Boone standing triumphantly on the front cover — that I used when I was in 4th grade in 1991.

And he notes the lack of investment in meaningful professional development for teachers:

 I have even designed and submitted a “Professional Growth Plan” that sits idle in a folder in an office in my building. Yet, I have no way of implementing my strategies for refining my craft. I do not blame my principal for this because he wants every student and teacher in his building to get better at what they do, but he lacks the necessary resources to make that happen.

His central point is that Kentucky is at a crossroads.  While investment in education increased steadily from 1990-2008 following the Kentucky Education Reform Act, that investment has tapered in recent years.  The per pupil funding provided by SEEK has actually declined.

Governor Beshear has proposed a budget that begins to reverse this trend, in some cases at the expense of other areas of state government.

While Kentucky made historic progress that garnered national attention during the years of investment following KERA, those gains are in danger. With new standards for students and new evaluations for teachers, now more than ever, Kentucky must invest in its schools.

Lawmakers would do well to heed the words of Mr. Clark and begin the process of re-investing in Kentucky schools.  They should also view this year’s investment as a starting point and find ways in the future to continue significant investment in Kentucky’s schools and its future.

For more on Kentucky education politics and policy, follow @KYEdReport