February Introductory Theme of the Month Blog: Accelerating STEM Teacher Leadership: Building Demand by Assessing Your Impact
It is increasingly implausible that we could improve the performance of schools . . . without promoting leadership in teaching by teachers.
—Judith Warren Little (1988)
Calls for teacher leadership are not new. However, authentic teacher leadership has been slow in coming. But something seems to be different now. School reformers see student test score results continuing to lag, and researchers point to the negative impact of out-of-school factors. A new science of learning suggests that community schools and whole child approaches to teaching and learning lead to safer schools, yes, but also to higher academic achievement and stronger outcomes for students. 
At the same time, the need for our nation’s public schools to transform teaching and learning for every student could not be greater. Technology knowledge is doubling every 11 months — and “students entering school today will leave to work in jobs that do not yet exist, using knowledge that has not yet been discovered and technologies that have not yet been invented, facing complex problems our generation has been unable to solve.” Over the next decade, the U.S. is projected to lose more than 1.5 million jobs to automation. However, across the globe more than 25% of companies are expecting automation to create new roles in their enterprise — for jobs in health sciences as well as for data analysts, software developers, and social media specialists.
STEM education could not be more important. The same goes for STEM teacher leaders.
Several years ago in my book, Teacherpreneurs, I described how 8 teachers were able to lead without leaving their classroom — despite teaching in the era of top-down, fix-the-teacher education reforms of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top see (video). Each of the eight did one thing well. They figured out ways to assess the impact of their leadership work and go public with it. As I reflected on their experiences and impact as well as the research on teacher leadership, I reached a simple conclusion: The problem is not the supply of teachers who want to lead without leaving the classroom; it is the demand for them. Our December 2019 STEMTLnet webinar put a bold exclamation mark on this fact when several teachers spoke to the importance “getting out of one’s comfort zone” and making sure administrators and colleagues knew “how (their) input was used” and “what was the outcome of our work.” As Jeff Milbourne told me recently, “Just as reflective practice promotes better pedagogy, assessing one's leadership capacity and activities can facilitate more leadership growth and opportunities."
In our February 4th webinar, we will explore how teachers (and STEM teachers in particular) can support leadership development by assessing their impact and telling their stories. Come join Jeff Milbourne as well as Jaraux Washington and Lori Nazareno and me as we will explore the following four questions:
- How did Jeff, Jaraux, and Lori see themselves as teacher leaders — and demonstrate to others the import of leading without leaving the classroom?
- How did they begin to lead efforts to transform the practice of teaching in their schools and districts, and influence their policies?
- How did they tell their story – including the tools and processes they used— to convince colleagues and administrators of the importance of teacher leadership?
- How can you begin to lead tomorrow — by examining your own network — and letting others know of your impact?
In a recent Kappan article I surface the challenge of administrators not knowing how to cultivate teacher leaders and offering too few incentives for teachers to spread their expertise; however, I also pointed to what can be done now to realize the promise and potential of teacher leadership. Jeff and Rebecca Hite have put together a sound conceptual overview of STEM teacher leader development, and Jaraux, in her leadership roles both in her school district and the National Geographic Society, routinely creates videos to demonstrate how students learn science and can be “empowered to create change” in a creative way. And Lori, in her role at CTQ, has supported hundreds of teachers like Glenna Sigmon and Justin Minkel, in telling their story.
Several years ago a national poll revealed that 1 in 4 teachers are “very/extremely” interested in both teaching and leading in hybrid roles. Now it is time for more teacher to assess their impact and build demand for the leadership skills they have, which must be put to use if our nation’s schools are to serve every child well.
 National Assessment of Educational Progress (2019). NAEP Report Card: 2019 NAEP Reading Assessment: Highlighted results at grades 4 and 8 for the nation, states, and districts Retrieved https://www.nationsreportcard.gov/highlights/reading/2019/
 Duncan, G. J. & Murnane, R. J. (Eds.) (2011). Wither opportunity? Rising inequality, schools and children’s life chances. Russell Sage Foundation; Berliner, D. C. (2009). Poverty and Potential: Out-of-School Factors and School Success. Boulder and Tempe: Education and the Public Interest Center & Education Policy Research Unit. Retrieved from http://epicpolicy.org/publication/poverty-and-potential
 Oakes, J., Maier, A., & Daniel, J. (2017). Community Schools: An Evidence-Based Strategy for Equitable School Improvement. Boulder, CO: National Education Policy Center. Retrieved from http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/equitable-community-schools
 Darling-Hammond, L. (2017). Empowered Educators. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass
 MetLife Corporation. (2013). The MetLife survey of the American teacher: Challenges for school leadership. New York, NY: Author.