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State Chiefs Boost Student Achievement by Leveraging the Power of Teacher Leadership Networks

Washington, D.C. – Tennessee boosted student achievement by leveraging the power of teacher leadership networks, a strategy that can be used to improve education systems across the country according to a new brief released by Chiefs for Change. “The Network Effect: Harnessing the Power of Teacher Leadership Networks to Sustain Progress in Tennessee” provides an in-depth analysis of Tennessee’s model for magnifying the impact of the state’s most effective educators, and notes key lessons learned for states interested in following its lead.

Under the sustained leadership of two Chiefs for Change Members, Commissioners Kevin Huffman and Candice McQueen, Tennessee has made truly impressive progress in student achievement over the better part of the past decade which is a testament to the vision for and dedication to their teacher empowerment work. The Tennessee Department of Education made it a priority to incorporate teacher voice into a variety of initiatives aimed at improving schools and the teaching practice. The statewide efforts, which provide support for district-led programs, have empowered teachers to take ownership of policy, curriculum, technology use, and data through a “network of networks.” At a time when the state was working to improve standards and raise expectations across the board, teacher leadership was key to successfully developing, launching, and sustaining reform efforts.

This analysis of Tennessee’s teacher leadership model provides new insight into the state’s notable student growth on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), highlighted in recent reports as visibly standing out from the crowd. It also comes on the heels of news that Tennessee received one of the highest scores on its state ESSA plan, reinforcing the idea that strong state leadership and strong teacher leadership go hand in hand, working synchronistically to improve outcomes for students.

Tennessee joins other forward-looking school systems who are leveraging Title II-A ESSA funds to empower teachers in advancing important reforms, like ensuring all students have access to high-quality curriculum. With Title II-A funds at stake, bold leaders working to provide excellent instruction for all students must commit to making investments that empower their most effective educators. Teacher leaders, with support, training, and a real voice in the decision-making process, are critical to lifting students — and each other — up to their greatest potential.

About Chiefs for Change

Chiefs for Change is a nonprofit, bipartisan network of diverse state and district education Chiefs dedicated to preparing all students for today’s world and tomorrow’s through deeply committed leadership. Chiefs for Change advocates for policies and practices that are making a difference today for students, and builds a pipeline of talented, diverse Future Chiefs ready to lead major school systems.

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