Iowa Teacher Leadership Plan
Policy Analyst Report 3/21/16
Passage of ESSA and national research group opposition to the Common Core and to Smarter Balanced/PARCC assessments, have been topics of conversation in Iowa as elsewhere. Whether a consequence or not, politically “things are in flux,” as ICTE President Jennifer Paulsen says.
From a platform of seniority among governors, Iowa’s Governor lauds a “teacher leadership and compensation” bill which, with its third year of “grants” for 2016-17, will have reached most Iowa districts. Allegedly, the TLC System rewards effective teachers with leadership opportunities and higher pay, attracts promising new teachers with competitive starting salaries and more support, and fosters greater collaboration for all teachers to learn from each other. Launching Teacher Leadership: Operationalizing the TLC Plan, a session for Cohort 3 (third year) Districts, is scheduled for mid-April.
While fostering some actual teacher leadership and emphasizing local plans, the state TLC Plan generates more TL positions, whether or not funding for them will last. In response, the ISEA aspires to add substance to position through PD, the regional Area Education Agency system rolls out the Iowa DE’s intentions and, through varied local procedures, experienced teachers become coaches, model teachers, team leaders, etc. – compensated, unlike in the past.
The IWP, with an NWP SEED grant, conducts a year-long reflective inquiry workshop for emerging teacher leaders, part of an MA program for most of them. Their inquiries demonstrate serious questions facing TLs, among them: How can an aspiring teacher leader distinguish a true leadership opportunity from a faux leadership “position”? How long can even a veteran teacher leader step away from the classroom and retain credibility? What blend of classroom and leadership roles, time and responsibilities is optimum? What contributions can teacher leaders make, and how, to develop a collaborative culture, whether or not from a labeled position? Clearly, actual leadership opportunity for teachers varies widely depending on the local district and plan, not just on state funding.
And funding is an issue. Some recall the recent significant funding increase for education passed by the same legislature and vetoed by the same governor, quite possibly as agreed prior to a highly publicized vote. Currently, school funding in the form of allowable growth, set by a House – Senate committee compromise, is likely to confront many districts with spending cuts and leverage consolidation. Higher Ed must contend for funding from what remains in projected state revenue or raise tuition – for students already debt encumbered. Hard to imagine that additional funding for teacher leadership will long survive in this economic climate.
James S. Davis