Strategies for Implementing the Teacher Leadership and Compensation Program in Iowa School Districts

Mary J. Nistler, Dean Gerdeman, and Ryan Williams

The Iowa Teacher Leadership and Compensation (TLC) system was designed to provide career pathways and compensation structures to attract, retain, and reward effective teachers; to promote continuous improvement in Iowa’s teaching workforce; and to increase student academic achievement. With TLC funds from the Iowa Department of Education, districts implemented new and revised teacher leadership roles and teacher professional development approaches intended to strengthen classroom instruction and student learning.

As part of an independent evaluation, AIR conducted case studies of six purposely selected Iowa school districts to identify promising local strategies for implementing TLC. AIR interviewed district and school personnel about their perceptions and experiences implementing TLC and incorporating teacher leaders as a primary component of teacher professional development. Respondents reported broadly favorable perspectives on TLC and perceived benefits for teacher professional development and instruction in the districts studied.

AIR identified 14 general strategies perceived to be effective across two or more of these districts, nested within the following topics:

  • Establishing teacher leadership roles;
  • Prioritizing school needs and decision making;
  • Supporting the success of instructional coaches; and
  • Supporting professional learning communities.

Findings indicate that interconnected strategies for shared decision making, supports for teacher leaders, and school-based professional development facilitated successful TLC implementation in the districts. Supports and cross-cutting roles for instructional coaches were particularly emphasized, enabling coaches to work with individual teachers, participate in leadership teams, and facilitate school-based professional development. Respondents perceived that these strategies enabled an improved system of professional supports for teachers. The types of strategies identified in this study may be applicable or adaptable in other Iowa districts seeking guidance about TLC implementation or teacher leadership.