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What can states learn about teacher empowerment from California?

View this brief from Education Dive

Dive Brief:

  • The RAND Corporation’s annual American Teacher Panel Surveyconducted in May in a dozen states nationwide indicates that teachers in California feel they have more of a voice and influence in their school’s affairs and are more involved in school decision-making, EdSource reports.
  • This increase in perception of influence reflects a recent shift in teacher-led collaboration and professional development, as well as the increased development of teacher leadership programs.
  • The survey supports data collected in 16 states in the latest New Teacher Center study, which found a correlation between teacher leadership and student achievement.

Dive Insight:

Teachers who feel that their insights matter and that they have an impact on decision-making in their school feel more empowered. After all, most teachers come into the profession out of a desire to lead. Though the issue of teacher empowerment seems more like a perception issue related to intangibles like higher confidence levels and a sense of leadership and control, teacher empowerment can translate into real effects that matter because empowered teachers can empower students to succeed.

In the most recent New Teacher Center’s Teaching, Empowering, Leading, and Learning survey, researchers found that schools reporting the highest levels of teacher leadership at the schools also reported state math and ELA test scores that were higher by at least 10% compared to schools with lower levels of teacher leadership, even after elements such as school population, location and demographics were factored in. A report by the New Teacher Center also noted that “when teachers are involved in decision-making processes related to school improvement planning and student conduct policies, students learn more” and that “high-poverty schools often lack the instructional and teacher leadership elements that strongly relate to increased student achievement, limiting students’ potential.”

School administrators can empower teachers in many ways, such as soliciting teacher input into school decisions, including teachers in the professional development process, giving them opportunities to share what is working in their classrooms, and giving them a vision for a path to advancement in their profession. The effort to empower teachers is well worth it in the long run because empowered teachers tend to stay where they are, improving teacher retention rates and offering a sense of stability to the school as a whole.

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Yael Bailey