Promoting Teacher Leadership in West Virginia 

Authors: Matthew Finster and Amy Lamitie

 

Background

In the fall of 2019, the West Virginia Board of Education hosted a series of public forums to gather information and insight from educators, parents, and community members on pressing topics, including educator preparation, recruitment, and retention. The subsequent report, West Virginia Board of Education Fall Listening Tour, identified a need for opportunities for teachers to be able to assume leadership roles without leaving the classroom. Following the Fall Listening Tour, in 2020, the West Virginia Legislature passed House Bill 4804, directing the West Virginia Department of Education (WVDE) to help county school boards design and implement a Teacher Leadership (TL) Framework to support teacher induction and opportunities for professional growth. The goals of the TL Framework are to: 1) disseminate effective teaching strategies through collaboration, 2) develop stronger and more positive school and district cultures, and 3) increase student achievement via shared leadership structures.  TL Frameworks adopted by a county board were required to create specific roles and responsibilities; provide regular, targeted professional learning opportunities; provide time and opportunities for teachers to collaborate; monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the TL program; and include teacher leaders in the school improvement planning process. The Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability was tasked with reviewing the progress of the TL Framework implementation and making recommendations it considered necessary to the Legislature. (HB 4804)

 

The Challenge

West Virginia Department of Education’s charge was to help county boards design and implement a TL Framework to support teacher induction and provide professional growth opportunities. According to the Teacher Leadership Tool Kit 2.0, well-designed teacher leadership initiatives can improve conditions for learning and the quality of instruction, accelerate progress toward district and state goals, and establish sustainable and effective leadership systems (Center on Great Teachers and Leaders, 2019). At the same time, “well-designed” teacher leadership initiatives need to address common barriers that can inhibit teacher leadership, including a lack of vision and goals, poorly defined TL roles and expectations, ad hoc selection criteria or “anointing and appointing” by the principal, unsupportive school climates, undifferentiated teacher leader evaluation processes, poorly articulated teacher leader and principal leadership roles, a lack of financial incentives, and ineffective TL program evaluation processes and tools.    

 

What Was Done

To support WVDE, the Region 5 Comprehensive Center (R5CC) conducted a scan of the literature on design and implementing aligned teacher leadership programs and authored several related blogs (Identifying Competencies for Teacher Leader Roles, Designing Teacher Leadership RolesAligning Teacher Leadership Initiatives). Informed by the resources provided by R5CC, the West Virginia Department of Education developed the County Planning Document with eleven sections that address common barriers of teacher leadership programs. For each section, multiple design options were provided for counties as options to incorporate into their TL Framework. In the summer of 2021, 85 percent of counties (47/55) submitted TL county applications. The R5CC used the completed TL county applications to assess capacity needs and shared the findings with WVDE. [1]

Figure 1. A majority of West Virginia counties submitted a teacher leadership plan (blue shaded)

 

Map of West Virginia color coded

 

What Happened? And, Next Steps

Key findings from the scan were shared with the Legislative Oversight Committee on Education in the WV Legislature in October. As part of the update, WVDE provided general recommendations to provide universal and targeted assistance to counties to support design and implementation of the TL Frameworks. In collaboration with WVDE, additional future universal and targeted supports may include:

  • Harvesting best practices or sharing exemplars from select county applications. For example, a team of Jefferson County school leaders presented the Teacher Leadership Framework at the board of education meeting late October. The framework has four focus areas—recruitment, retention, curriculum, and teacher capacity—that each have a corresponding TL role, namely: recruiters, advocates, master, and mentor teachers.[i]

  • Developing products and tools based on the information above to share with counties. For example, as a first step in sharing evidence-based practices with counties, R5CC is developing an interactive online module—Managing Teacher Leadership—that covers nine components critical to managing teacher leadership programs. The forthcoming online modules will be available at Home | Comprehensive Center Network, Region 5, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia (region5compcenter.org).
  • Providing guidance or establishing county norms for common mentor and cooperating TL roles and responsibilities, minimum qualifications, and evaluation methods.
  • Identifying cohorts of counties by common areas of need and providing support in those areas via workshops. 

Overall, Carla Warren, Ed.D., NBCT the Director of Educator Development and Support Services in Office of Teaching and Learning at the WVDE commented, “I am extremely pleased with the support the WVDE is receiving around teacher preparation and teacher leadership at this time.”

 

[1] Six counties submitted applications after the deadline and were not included in the scan, but are shown as having submitted a teacher leadership application in the Figure 1.

[i] Wilt, J. (October 27, 2021) Jefferson Co. BOE hears presentation on Teacher Leadership Framework Jefferson Co. BOE hears presentation on Teacher Leadership Framework | Journal-news | journal-news.net