A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

Teachers Leading the Way: Voices from the National Teacher Forum - April 1998

Why Teacher Leadership Is Needed

Teacher leadership is more important today than ever before because Americans expect more of schools and teachers. We expect teachers to teach for understanding, not just well enough for students to pass a test. Teaching for understanding means helping students "get the habit" of thinking mathematically, solving problems scientifically, reasoning historically and geographically, seeing artistically, reading critically, writing persuasively, and communicating clearly. We know that all students, not just a few, must acquire these habits if they are to participate as adults in a knowledge-based economy and a self-governing society.

These new expectations mean that our schools must change and that teachers must help change them, requiring new roles for teachers.

Today, teachers are being asked to...

make clear to parents and others, as well as to students themselves, what every student needs to know and be able to do;

communicate more with parents and families how they can help students reach higher academic standards;

integrate technology into instruction;

help improve assessments and use the results to improve teaching and learning;

work with various partners--colleges, businesses, community groups, and volunteers;

collaborate with other teachers;

participate in teams and school-level decision making; and

make ongoing learning part of their job.

Within a range of leadership roles, teachers can contribute a distinct perspective on American education that is critical to improving the quality of teaching and the amount that students learn. Teachers have front-line knowledge of classroom issues and the culture of schools, and they understand the support they need to do their jobs well.

Their contributions are critical to making education reform efforts succeed. When teachers participate in improving education, the changes are more likely to work. Without their contributions, teachers often pretend to comply with the new expectations, but conduct business as usual once the classroom door is closed.


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