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Teachers leading

New York Teacher

Teaching is at the heart of a successful school. But all too often, fabulous teachers leave the classroom and are promoted to administrators. When the UFT and the Department of Education launched Teacher Career Pathways seven years ago, it was an effort to give teachers a career path that allowed them to remain teachers and share their hard-earned knowledge for the benefit of their colleagues — with a stipend for the extra responsibilities they take on.

Nearly 1,300 teachers are currently model teachers, peer collaborative teachers or master teachers in New York City public schools thanks to the teacher leadership program. And now the world has taken note: A report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and its International Institute for Educational Planning cites New York City as a model for how to recruit, manage and retain a strong teaching force.

Teacher leaders share best practices through peer coaching and open classrooms, and they help develop a supportive environment where teachers can exchange ideas and try out new instructional approaches — without the pressure of being evaluated. The report found that the program has also enhanced overall school culture by giving teachers a say in school goals and practices.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that teachers report that their classroom practice improved as a result of working with teacher leaders. As one perceptive principal noted in the study, “It is peer support, not support coming from the administration or borough… You feel more comfortable when a colleague comes to your office without a rating sheet.”

The success of the teacher leadership program confirms what the union has always known: The quality of education improves when we empower teachers by giving them a voice in how our students are educated.