Teacher Leadership

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Sharing the Lead

Denver Public Schools (DPS) Superintendent Tom Boasberg faced a problem familiar to public school administrators across the country. He needed to boost student performance, yet his schools were poorly structured to promote the faculty development necessary to make that happen. A primary obstacle, as he saw it, was that principals were responsible for managing too many people.

“In any other knowledge-based profession, it’s an absolute given that you won’t see people trying to coach or supervise more than six or eight people,” said Boasberg, a former telecommunications executive. “Yet in schools, we ask school leaders to coach and supervise thirty, forty, fifty people.” To address this problem, DPS distributed some traditional principal responsibilities among teacher leaders.

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Building upon its previous teacher leadership initiatives, during the 2013-14 school year the district introduced a Differentiated Roles pilot, in which Team Leads manage small groups of fellow teachers. Unlike teacher leadership roles that add responsibilities to teachers’ regular classroom duties, Team Leads teach for one-half to three-quarters of the day and devote the rest of their time exclusively to management responsibilities. These include observing six to ten colleagues (as frequently as once per week), providing feedback in one-on-one meetings, and conducting formal evaluations. Sharing the Lead details the pilot’s aims to provide teachers with better support, create strong team cultures, and help with the recruitment, development, and retention of top teachers.

Two teachers sitting at a table