Investing in Science Teacher Leadership: Strategies and Impacts in the NGSS Early Implementers Initiative

by Ashley Iveland; Burr Tyler; Katy Nilsen; Kimberly Nguyen; Ted Britton

Feb 1, 2019

While reports about teacher leadership are common, the story of leadership development in the California K-8 NGSS Early Implementers Initiative (known in short as the Early Implementers Initiative) has some unique aspects worth reading about.

Many projects aiming to implement widespread changes in teaching use a train-the-trainers model. That is, some teachers participate in professional learning, and they, in turn, provide professional learning to other teachers.

The Early Implementers Initiative strongly expanded upon this model. The Initiative deeply prepared teachers for the foundational role of being leaders in how to implement science teaching called for by the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). However, the Initiative also explicitly prepared teachers to become catalysts for change in their districts.

This seventh report in a series of evaluation reports about the Initiative is intended primarily for state and district leaders, including school principals, and leaders of teacher professional learning. Based on extensive observations, interviews, and surveys, the report describes teacher leadership development and its benefits in the first four years (2014-2018) of the six-year Initiative. The report describes how the Initiative prepared teachers for leadership in NGSS teaching, including how it created a culture of collaboration that produced change agents for science education and NGSS implementation; and how the leadership experience affected teacher leaders' actions and professional growth.

Professional learning for close to 500 teacher leaders was led by WestEd's K-12 Alliance in collaboration with the Initiative's district Project Directors. The participants in each district included dozens of Teacher Leaders who experienced 9 days per year of professional learning. Additionally, about 9 Core Teacher Leaders1 per district received 12 days per year of further learning opportunities.

The two main vehicles of professional learning every year, experienced by both levels of teacher leaders, were (a) weeklong, Initiative-wide Summer Institutes held centrally for teacher leaders from all districts; and (b) two two-day cycles of Teaching Learning Collaboratives (TLCs, a strong version of lesson studies) held during the school year.