New York City’s teacher leadership program is being hailed as an international model for its ability to retain, motivate and encourage collaboration among teachers.
Researchers from the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization and its International Institute for Educational Planning assessed the impact of New York City’s Teacher Career Pathways program largely through interviews and surveys of teacher leaders, their colleagues and school principals. The response was overwhelmingly positive. Those interviewed sited the program’s strong impact on teacher voice in school decision-making, collaboration, professional development, teacher satisfaction and retention, and overall school culture.
The Department of Education and the UFT piloted the Teacher Career Pathways program in 2012 and negotiated its expansion in the 2014 DOE-UFT contract. Three types of teacher leadership positions were created: model teacher, master teacher and peer collaborative teacher. The positions came with stipends for the extra work and responsibility. Today, 1,291 teacher leaders are working in 602 New York City public schools.
Researchers Lucy Crehan, Barbara Tournier and Chloe Chimier found that the New York City program increased teachers’ career satisfaction. Teachers were excited and motivated now that they had a career pathway that allowed them to lead while remaining active in the classroom. Over 70 percent of the teacher leaders surveyed or interviewed said they were part of conversations with school leadership about their school’s curricular choices, instructional goals and practices and/or how and where to allocate time and money to support instructional goals.
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 a match group. Eighty percent of the principals concurred that the leadership roles helped them retain their best teachers.
A significant majority of classroom teachers reported that their instructional practice had improved as a result of working with teacher leaders in their school. Ninety-one percent of the principals surveyed said they had witnessed an increase in pedagogical capacity.
The study noted the importance of teacher buy-in and trust, which included a strong link with the union throughout the design and implementation phases.