Wednesday, July 9, 2014


Work with 21 D.C. Schools Aims to Retain Effective Educators and Drive School Wide Achievement Gains

July 9, 2014 (Washington DC)—Principals and teachers from 17 D.C. public schools are gathering this week to identify challenges they want to tackle in the coming school year and the leadership roles teachers can play in driving this positive change. The effort is being facilitated by Leading Educators, a nonprofit organization that partners with districts to identify leadership opportunities for teachers and train them in the management skills necessary to be successful. This year, Leading Educators is working with 21 DCPS schools up from seven in 2013-14.

During this week’s kick-off, principals and teachers will outline their work for the coming school year, set goals and assign responsibilities for teachers. The effort gives teachers the chance to take on larger roles within their schools while remaining in the classroom working with their students. Some of the challenges they may take on are leading intervention programs for students who are behind their grade level, creating model classrooms where teachers can observe effective instructional practices, and developing strategies for lowering suspension rates, among others. 

“D.C. public schools are at the forefront of teacher leadership development and understand the power of great educators to lead their peers to better student outcomes,” said Jonas Chartock, CEO of Leading Educators. “Through our work with these 21 schools, we are helping them identify the right roles for these teachers and developing the skills all successful leaders need. Our early results in D.C. show that this work has the potential to dramatically improve the retention rates of excellent teachers and increase student achievement across the board. We’re very excited about what we’re seeing here.”

In its first year partnering with DCPS, Leading Educators worked with seven schools. By the end of the year, one school noticed a significant decrease in office referrals after creating a Special Education Department; another school that started a blending learning program has received a grant to expand the work so that each student will have access to technology throughout the day; another school improved continuity of curriculum to ensure that each grade appropriately builds on the previous one. Several schools overhauled the way they use data by utilizing data coaches and weekly review cycles to closely monitor when students are growing or struggling.

Partner schools for 2014-15 are:

Stanton ES*
Wheatley EC*
Tyler ES*
CW Harris*
Janney ES*
Ballou SHS
Beers ES
Brightwood EC
Cardozo EC
Eastern SHS
Garrison ES
Jefferson MS
Ketcham ES
Langley ES
McKinley Technology SHS
Powell ES
Seaton ES
Tubman ES
Truesdell EC
Eliot-Hine MS

*Leading Educators Partner in 2013-14

For more information about Leading Educators, visit


Leading Educators is a non-profit organization that seeks to improve student achievement by accelerating the positive impact of experienced teachers who take on leadership positions in their schools. We partner with districts, schools and individual educators to develop their management skills so they can lead their peers to better student outcomes. In doing so, we help retain our best educators, refresh the talent pipeline and improve outcomes from the classroom.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Power of Relationships in Middle Leadership

In April, Leading Educators took seven Fellows to England in partnership with Teaching Leaders UK and the British Council. We are now featuring their reflections here. 

Adrianna Riccio, who shares her reflections below, is a Reading Specialist at Glasgow Middle School in Alexandria, VA. She is in her first year of the Leading Educators Fellowship. 

The aspects of a successful relationship, whether personal or professional, are trust, collaboration, and belief in potential. The feeling you get when someone trusts you to make a decision or believes that you have the potential to do something great is probably one of the best feelings you will ever experience. If you are lucky, you’ll get to experience that feeling over and over again.

I became a teacher because I wanted to be the cause of this feeling in all of my students. I believe in my students’ ability to succeed and I share this belief with them on a regular basis. We know the research and our experiences teach us that students thrive when they experience positive relationships. I believe this is also true for adults who work with children, namely teachers.

When I accepted my new position at Glasgow Middle School this year, I was nervous. It would be the first time that I would be given the responsibility of a team of teachers. It would be the first time in my career that I would need to make decisions about programs, best practices, teaching and learning and student achievement for students outside of my classroom. It would be my first formal leadership opportunity. A few months before accepting the position, I was inducted into the 2013 cohort of Leading Educators’ teacher leadership Fellowship, the inaugural cohort in the Washington, DC area. I had just come back from the Leading Educators’ week-long summer intensive and my mind was spinning with all of the things I wanted to implement during the year.

In American schools, the idea of middle leadership is really just starting to evolve. Typically in public education, the principal sets the tone for the school and others follow his or her vision. The principal makes the decisions, often with the help of a senior leadership team, but rarely will he or she ask for teacher input. Although the positions for middle leadership do exist in some schools, the communication is more like a pipe line rather than a collaborative discussion where middle leaders and teachers’ ideas are regularly taken into consideration. Middle leadership in England is an established part of the education sector with defined goals and objectives. While some schools in the United States have moved in this direction, middle leadership in the United States continues to lack national momentum.

Middle leadership in the English school system has become a national discussion and goals and evaluation criteria have been established. Almost all leaders in the school, including the principal and vice principal, continue to teach and work with students. The senior leadership team relies heavily on the middle leaders and gives them the autonomy to make decisions within their areas of expertise. All leaders in the building encourage continuous professional development and collaboration and this idea is infused in everything they do, from the assistant teachers to the Director of Education. Teachers are collaborating with other teachers, other leaders and other schools. While it would be fairly easy to go back to the Unites States and explain to my principal that we need to collaborate more because doing so is what is making England so successful, I somehow think it goes deeper than just working together. I think it’s because the senior leadership team has developed relationships with their middle leaders that are based around trust, collaboration, and the belief in potential. 

Like every other experience I have had with Leading Educators, this experience taught me an unbelievable amount. I was most impressed with how often I witnessed trust and collaboration between leadership and teachers, and how everyone believed in the potential of both their peers on staff and the students. Middle leadership in the United States is a fairly new concept. Traditionally, the school leadership team consisted of only principals and vice principals.

The idea of giving teachers more leadership capacity is a recent development within education. Positions like subject area leader or instructional coach are affording teachers the opportunity to continue teaching while also exercising their leadership ability. Some middle leaders continue to teach, while others leave the classroom and assume leadership responsibilities full time. Some are given the autonomy to make decisions about their subject area or team of teachers, while others are simply passing on messages from the senior leadership team. They are able to bridge the communication gap between school administrators and classroom teachers. Middle leadership needs to become a national discussion in order for the field of education to advance.

In order to continue to improve middle leadership in the United States, middle leaders must be given the autonomy to make decisions within their field of expertise and it must become a national discussion so that we can create a standard of measure from which to improve. Only when we empower middle leaders to contribute to the success and improvement of their schools will we see all students reach their full potential.

The opportunity to collaborate internationally with other teachers and leaders was made possible because of the important work of Leading Educators and their sister organization in the UK, Teaching Leaders, and the British Council. It is because of organizations like these that the discussion of middle leadership is becoming more widely known. Programs like this in the future will continue to develop capacity in our future middle leaders and improve our schools.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Teacher Leaders Visit Counterparts in United Kingdom

In April, Leading Educators took seven Fellows to England in partnership with Teaching Leaders UK and the British Council. The trip followed an earlier visit to New Orleans by several teacher leaders from the United Kingdom. 

The exchange is sponsored by the British Council with the intention of teacher leaders sharing best practices, learning from observing each others' schools and classrooms and from discussing their roles. Many of our attending teacher leaders wrote short pieces on their experiences during the trip. We plan to publish all of these perspectives, starting with Bridget Cantrell, Elementary Instructional Coordinator at Ott Elementary in Kansas City. Bridget published a blog of her own to share her trip with her school: 

Day #2 Such a big world, yet a common mission!

I can't help but listen to the UK team and learn about their education structure and think we have a common mission; to educate all students to the highest level that they can possible attain in order to improve our society and quality of life for each and every student.

Most of the day was gaining knowledge of the English structure of education and the historical aspect  of educational change and reform.  I think I was most impressed by the accountability system description by Barry who is a Teaching Leader coach and OLFSTED evaluator.  OLFSTED is the accountability function run by the government.  I connected this to our MSIP 5 accountability but layered with a site visit.  The spirit of  accountability was represented by a true spirit of growth for each student.

The thought of Middle Leaders has brought much traction to recent UK thinking.  Middle Leaders are  vital to the grass roots effort of change within a school.  OFSTED even recognizes the impact of these folks in the improvement process and has designated look fors during site visits.  I can't feel excited to think about the defined support roles of teacher leaders in the trenches and yet serving as support to colleagues and Principals.  I think this is an undefined role in the US, a thankless, unrecognized silent leadership role.  I can't help but wonder why we don't recognize these practitioners in a formal leadership role. 

You can read the rest of this post and find Bridget's other posts here:

Thursday, May 8, 2014

$33,000 strong for Teacher Leadership

Tuesday of this week was a special day: Teacher Appreciation Day and GiveNOLA DAY, a 24-hour online giving event hosted by the Greater New Orleans Foundation where donations receive a partial match from the foundation. Leading Educators encouraged friends and supporters to show their appreciation for teachers by giving to the organization via GiveNOLA. By the end of the day, over 80 people donated to Leading Educators, raising over $33,000 to support teacher leaders and the students with whom they work! We are proud to say that 100% of the Leading Educators staff contributed during the event, showing their dedication to our mission not only through their everyday work but also through their personal donations.

Stay tuned--next week we will find out the grand total that includes the match from the foundation. For now, we are touched by the support we saw during GiveNOLA and look forward to next year's event.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Leading Educators’ Boston School Visits

DC Fellow Edwin Dela Torre wrote this reflection after the School Visits Trip to Boston in November. As potential Fellows consider applying for the program, we encourage them to see the insights shared in our current participants' blog posts. 

by Edwin Dela Torre, Leading Educators Fellow in Washington,D.C., Cohort 2013

The saying goes that “it takes a village to educate a child.” And this is even more applicable in today’s world, what with the globalization trend and the world becoming smaller and smaller, that is, getting more and more connected. Connections and networking comprise another trend that affects all sectors of our world, including education. Getting to visit and learn from schools and districts in another city like Boston was s a great opportunity for us Fellows of Leading Educators to connect with our colleagues in that part of the country. And this visit proved to be just that, an awesome learning experience that will strengthen our resolve and re-ignite our passion to make a difference in the lives of our students back here in DC.

It was a mere two and a half days of debriefing (Nov. 13-15, 2013), but I felt like the education situation in Boston (which, I believe, represents the whole country like a microcosm) was presented to us from different angles and perspectives. The Leading Educators’ organizers arranged it so well that we were able to observe a whole gamut of different setups of how education is in Boston, and, by extension, how it is in the whole country. At the time of the actual visits, our small groups saw this angle or that perspective, this style or that emphasis, these grade levels or that special group of students. But during later debriefing and bigger group sharing, we saw the whole picture in its different pieces of the puzzle, like a collage forming a greater canvas.

Finally, with the use of seven different levers for visiting schools, which have also been used in the process of observation itself, we were able to integrate what we learned in small pieces. A great tool indeed, much like a pair of eyeglasses that can help one focus on particular aspects, eliminating other distractors, or putting those “distractors” in their possible frame of integration into the bigger picture.

Moving forward, we are now equipped with such a rich arsenal of experiences, compressed in such a short period of time, but still very useful, if we are able to digest these experiences, and make them our own. And we can eclectically choose what may or may not be applicable to our setting here in the schools and districts in or around our nation’s capital.