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In Iowa, Supporting Deeper Learning for Educators by Leveraging Collective Capacity

Elizabeth Leisy Stosich

This post published in EdWeek's Learning Deeply blog is authored by Elizabeth Leisy Stosich, Research & Policy Fellow, Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education (SCOPE). 

My colleague, Soung Bae, and I have had the opportunity to study the efforts of state leaders who are redesigning their systems of support and accountability to create more meaningful learning opportunities for all children. I have been particularly excited about the pioneering efforts of Iowa in changing the way teachers work and learn together.

Like many people in education, leaders in Iowa recognize the essential role of teachers in creating meaningful learning opportunities for children. The approach to strengthening the teaching force in Iowa is unique, however, in that policymakers have made major investments in teacher leadership and compensation to strengthen the collective capacity of the teaching force. In contrast, many states have focused primarily on using teacher evaluation policies to identify, reward, and further develop individual educators.

Iowa's Teacher Leadership and Compensation (TLC) System includes a yearly investment of $150 million that "rewards effective teachers with leadership opportunities and higher pay, attracts promising new teachers with competitive starting salaries and more support, and fosters greater collaboration for all teachers to learn from each other." In essence, the TLC System is intended to foster more supportive working conditions for all teachers by leveraging the expertise of accomplished teachers to support the learning and development of their colleagues as mentors to new or developing teachers, instructional coaches, model teachers who open their classrooms for demonstrations, curriculum developers, and other leadership roles. When teachers work collaboratively with their colleagues to improve instruction, knowledge about content, students, and pedagogy that was once private becomes public and can benefit a greater number of children.

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