In 2013–14, the United Federation of Teachers and the New York City Department of Education created a new teacher leadership/career pathway program to expand teachers’ voice and agency in their schools while allowing the educators involved in new leadership activities to remain in their classrooms.
A study of the program released this week by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the International Institute for Educational Planning (UNESCO-IIEP) found that it had a positive impact on teacher satisfaction and retention, teacher voice and collaboration, instructional practices, professional development and overall school culture.
“As educators, we know — and as this study bears out — that empowering the people in the classroom is the best way to invigorate school communities and create better conditions for teaching and learning,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “With 1,291 teacher leaders changing the culture in 602 New York City public schools, we think New York City has valuable lessons to share.”
The study found:
- New York City’s Teacher Career Pathways provides a number of lessons for other governments considering a similar program: the importance of teacher buy-in and trust, which includes a strong link with the union throughout the design and implementation phases; support and accountability from multiple sources; consistent engagement with school leaders; and overall monitoring and strong management. (page 13)
- The program helped retain valued teachers. A 2014–15 survey found 98 percent of the teacher leaders remained in New York City public schools, compared with 89 percent of matched group, a statistically significant nine-point difference. (page 41)
- Principals reported the program improved their ability to attract (52%) and retain (69%) teachers. (figure 13, page 41)
- A majority of teachers reported that their instructional practice improved as a result of working with the teacher leaders. (figure 11, page 38)
The program began in 2013–14 with 299 teacher leaders in 78 schools. The program created three new positions: model teachers, who opened their classroom to other teachers as a way to share effective teaching strategies; peer collaborative teachers, who coach other teachers, brainstorm solutions to teaching problems, and facilitate professional learning opportunities; and master teachers, who help cultivate a collaborative learning culture and promote best practices within a school and district. The positions carried stipends for the extra work.