Policy Should Learn From Practice
Like most before it, a new book from Teach Plus explores how to solve the most intractable problems in education. But unlike most before it, the book looks to those with the most direct experience about what does and doesn’t work: classroom teachers.
Learning from the Experts: Teacher Leaders on Solving America’s Education Challenges features ideas from 17 teachers for effecting change on seven critical challenges facing education. One of those challenges is ensuring equitable access to effective teachers for all students. Two teachers, Erin Dukeshire and Lisa Goncalves Lavin, work in high-need schools and are part of Teach Plus’s Turnaround Teacher Teams Initiative (T3) in Boston Public Schools. In a chapter that Kati Haycock and I contributed to, Dukeshire and Lavin illustrate how their opportunities to take on meaningful and significant teacher leadership roles, combined with other fundamental conditions such as high expectations for performance and a strong school culture, attracted and kept them in high-need schools. “We were drawn to the dual challenges presented by leading change as teachers in turnaround schools: to teach low-income, high-need students … and also to take on leadership roles to effect schoolwide change,” Dukeshire and Lavin write in the chapter. They said they joined T3 because it “would allow us to be part of the problem-solving team to ‘turn around’ a school and would afford us the opportunity to work with a team of people who were effective, informed and dedicated… Most importantly, our fellow teacher leaders would share our belief that all children can succeed under the right circumstances.”
T3, which encourages collaborative decision-making and teacher leadership in schools, is one promising practice we’ve highlighted in our Building and Sustaining Talent report. As many districts and states struggle with the issue of equitable access to effective teachers, few are certain what to do about it. T3 might not be the right solution for every district, but as states and districts try innovative strategies to draw and retain strong teachers in high-need schools, those of us working in policy need to be listening and learning from those on the ground. Dukeshire and Lavin can attest: “After three years as teacher leaders, we are convinced that this model works — both to attract great teachers to struggling school to improve those schools for students and to offer teachers an opportunity to learn and expand their impact beyond a single classroom.”
Ed Trust has long strived to inform our policy positioning by looking to and learning from practice. The thoughtful insights of the teachers in Learning from the Experts emphasize the importance of making sure that we are all doing this more often.