Transform Teacher Leadership

Six steps principals can take right away to foster authentic and effective teacher leadership at their schools.

December 2015, Volume 39, Issue 4

Across the education field, there is unusual consensus that strong teacher leadership is central to improving our schools, particularly as teachers and students strive to meet higher academic expectations. While a growing number of districts are creating teacher leader roles, unfortunately few are providing any kind of specialized training.

Assigning teachers to leadership roles without quality training does a double dis-service: It takes teaching time away from the educators best prepared to accelerate student learning, and then fails to equip them with the skills they need to lead colleagues to similar success. So what can be done to ensure that teacher leaders have the skills and expertise they need to meaningfully contribute to schoolwide improvement?

A new report from New Leaders—Untapped: Transforming Teacher Leadership to Help Students Succeed—begins to answer that question. It describes and shares promising early findings from its Emerging Leaders Program, a job-embedded coaching and training program that develops teachers into forceful instructional leaders. Program outcomes indicate that almost three-quarters of participants were able to boost student learning in the class-rooms they supervised during their training year.


A one-page companion resource, Untapped: What Principals Can Do to Transform Teacher Leadership, describes six steps principals can take right away to foster authentic and effective teacher leadership at their schools.

  1. Prioritize shared leadership as a critical strategy for school improvement. For example, set a time-bound goal to collaborate in a key area of responsibility, such as coaching or operations.
  2. Inventory current and future leadership needs at the school. For example, undertake a school needs assessment or have a structured conversation with a supervisor to identify gaps in leadership capacity.
  3. Assess individual potential to share leadership responsibilities. For example, look for evidence that individual staff members can set and exemplify high expectations for all, earn respect and trust among col leagues, and guide colleagues to delivering better instruction.
  4. Define potential shared leadership responsibilities based on school needs and staff strengths and expertise.
  5. Support targeted opportunities for staff to develop key leadership skills. For example, develop incremental, job-embedded opportunities for aspiring teacher leaders to road-test their skills.
  6. Set specific impact goals for teacher leaders. Communicate your expectations for teachers who take on leadership responsibilities and offer regular feedback to help them meet those expectations.

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