West Virginia school districts are leveraging digital resources to help manage teacher leadership programs

Using online modules to strengthen teacher leadership programs


West Virginia school districts are leveraging digital resources to help manage teacher leadership programs

In West Virginia, the 2019 Board of Education Fall Listening Tour identified a need for opportunities for teachers to be able to assume leadership roles without leaving the classroom. Following the Fall Listening Tour, the West Virginia Legislature passed House Bill 4804 in 2020, directing the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) to help county school boards design and implement a Teacher Leadership (TL) Framework to support teacher induction and opportunities for professional growth.

The goals of the TL Framework are to 1) disseminate effective teaching strategies through collaboration, 2) develop stronger and more positive school and district cultures, and 3) increase student achievement via shared leadership structures.  The WVDE requires all TL frameworks adopted by county boards to create specific roles and responsibilities; provide regular, targeted professional learning opportunities; provide time and opportunities for teachers to collaborate; monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the TL program, and include teacher leaders in the school-improvement planning process.

Well-designed teacher leadership initiatives can improve conditions for learning and the quality of instruction, accelerate progress toward district and state goals, and establish sustainable and effective leadership systems (Center on Great Teachers and Leaders, 2019). But given multiple pressing priorities, it can be challenging to develop well-designed teacher leadership initiatives.

Many newly designed programs struggle with common barriers that can inhibit teacher leadership, including a lack of vision and goals, poorly defined TL roles and expectations, ad hoc selection criteria or “anointing and appointing” by the principal, unsupportive school climates, undifferentiated teacher leader evaluation processes, poorly articulated teacher leader and principal leadership roles, a lack of financial incentives, and ineffective TL program evaluation processes, and tools.  

In collaboration with WVDE, the Region 5 Comprehensive Center (R5CC) developed interactive online modules to support district-level staff, building-level leaders, and teachers who are interested in designing and managing formal teacher leadership programs to support school improvement.  After introducing the concept of teacher leadership and its benefits, the resource presents nine sequenced modules that describe components critically important to managing a teacher leadership program.

Each of the nine modules is organized into four sections: 1) The Big Idea, which distills essential information explored in each module 2) Practices, which offers readers relevant approaches to the specific work described in the module, varying from general guidance and exercises to relevant tools and resources; 3) Focus and Fit Tips, which reminds readers to ensure the work remains focused on teacher leadership competencies and all the practices fit together in a mutually supportive and reinforcing way; and 4) Your Turn, which provides actionable next steps to deeply engage in the work outlined in each module using the Engagement Guide.

During the 2022-23 school year, WVDE and R5CC staff will collaborate to disseminate and highlight sections of theonline modules to county stakeholders to increase awareness and use of the resource. The intention is to provide support in each component throughout the year by developing peer-to-peer opportunities to explore topics of common interest and, if requested, providing additional support to counties to help design and implement their teacher leader frameworks.

Overall, Carla Warren, Ed.D., NBCT, the Director of Educator Development and Support Services in the Office of Teaching and Learning at the WVDE commented, “I am extremely pleased with the support the department is receiving around teacher preparation and teacher leadership at this time.”

While designing and implementing teacher leader programs can be challenging, there are common lessons and approaches from the literature, including the use of online educational resources, that can support these initiatives. For more information and support, contact the Region 5 Comprehensive Center.

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