K-12 Education

Leading from the Front of the Classroom

October 20, 2014  • Ross Wiener

Note: Read the full report “Leading from the Front of the Classroom: A Roadmap for Teacher Leadership that Works.”

With more than 3.3 million classroom teachers, teaching is the largest profession in America. It’s also the flattest, with virtually all teachers having the same job description on day one as they have as a 20-year veteran, without regard to a teacher’s contributions or special expertise. Given the ambition to dramatically increase student achievement and the commensurate imperative to more effectively develop teaching talent, public education must embrace teacher leadership to succeed. This concept is gaining traction, as illustrated by the Department of Education’s recent launch of the Teach to Lead initiative. 

To assist superintendents and others in making the most of teacher leadership, the Aspen Institute is releasing “Leading from the Front of the Classroom: A Roadmap for Teacher Leadership that Works.” The paper was developed in partnership with Leading Educators, an entrepreneurial, reform-support organization that is a critical player in the human capital reforms of New Orleans, Louisiana, and efforts to spread meaningful teacher leadership work nationally. The Aspen Institute and Leading Educators also profile promising practices in leading states, districts, and charter schools, and offer a practical framework for designing and implementing effective teacher leadership. 

Done right, teacher leadership elevates the profession, acknowledges the tremendous talent already available to increase quality instruction in schools, and makes other reforms more likely to succeed. With all the acrimony that characterizes education reform these days, teacher leadership represents that rare education reform strategy that can forge common ground and unite otherwise opposing stakeholders. Teacher leadership is a vital improvement strategy — and “Leading from the Front of the Classroom” will help to ensure we get it right.  

Ross Wiener is vice president and executive director of the Education and Society Program at the Aspen Institute.