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Senators Coons, Ernst, Grassley, and Reed introduce bipartisan bill to expand and support teacher leadership opportunities

WASHINGTON- U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and Jack Reed (D-RI) today introduced the Teachers Are Leaders Act, which would create partnerships between colleges and high-need schools to develop and support innovative teacher leader roles.

Teachers are one of the most important factors in student achievement. Unfortunately, high teacher attrition rates, which have neared 8 percent in recent years, mean that quality teachers are leaving the classroom every year. Teacher attrition rates are highest in our lowest-performing schools, where students have the greatest need for high-quality teachers. 

Read the bill text here.

Read a one-pager on the bill here.

The top reasons for teachers leaving the classroom often include a lack of administrative support, professional learning opportunities, and decision-making input. Teachers desire and deserve a variety of career advancement opportunities to lead in their school without having to leave the classroom. Recognizing this, innovative districts and states such as Delaware and Iowa have created “teacher leader” roles, wherein classroom teachers take on additional responsibilities to address unique school needs.

To support these efforts, this bill would support locally-designed teacher leader development programs that would create teacher leader roles that directly address demonstrated school needs, which could range from peer coaching to developing new dual enrollment courses. The bill would ensure that the continuum of teacher preparation and development extends beyond the first few years of teaching and would offer a practical way for higher education to address teacher recruitment and retention challenges.

“Teachers invest so much of themselves in their students, so it’s critical that we invest in them to ensure they have all the resources they need to make sure every child can receive an excellent education. Teacher leadership is a promising investment that offers teachers new learning and leadership opportunities, which have been shown to improve teacher job satisfaction, and more importantly, to increase student achievement,” said Senator Coons.

“Across our nation, educators play an important role in not only the development of our students, but in the community as a whole,” said Senator Ernst. “Unfortunately, for many rural school districts, such as those in Iowa, attracting and retaining teachers remains a challenge. Investing in our state’s teachers is investing in our future leaders. I am pleased to partner with my colleague Senator Coons on the bipartisan Teachers Are Leaders Act to allow for greater flexibility for states to assist our educators in growing and developing their skills.”

“Iowa has a major teacher leadership initiative,” said Senator Grassley.  “This legislation will support efforts in states like Iowa to provide career advancement opportunities for teachers and improve student achievement by having the most successful teachers coach others.”

“Teacher leadership is too often an underutilized resource for improving our schools, advancing student achievement, and strengthening the teaching profession,” said Senator Reed.  “I’m proud to help introduce this legislation to develop this vital resource and foster new opportunities for growth for both students and teachers across the nation.”

“The nation’s expert teachers know that teacher leadership is critical for solving important challenges in education today, including teacher retention and recruitment.  We salute Sens. Coons, Ernst, Grassley, and Reed for their leadership in establishing this priority,” said Katherine Bassett, President and CEO, National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY).

"Teach Plus is thrilled to endorse the Teachers Are Leaders Act. The 30,000 teachers in the Teach Plus Teacher Leader Network understand that teacher leadership is a smart investment that yields gains in student success.  We applaud the bill's attention to improving preparation, and its innovative approach to differentiated career paths that will foster new opportunities for professional growth,” said Alice Cain Johnson, Executive Vice President, Teach Plus.

“Fostering teacher leadership is critical to extending the reach of expert teachers and offering them opportunities to grow professionally without leaving the classroom. The Teachers Are Leaders Act will establish pathways and opportunities for teachers to build their leadership voice in schools and districts,” said Peggy Brookins, NBCT, President and CEO, National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS).

The Teachers Are Leaders Act is supported by: NNSTOY, NBPTS, Teach Plus, Alliance for Excellence in Education, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE), Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), Delaware State Education Association (DSEA), Educators 4 Excellence, International Literacy Association (ILA), National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), National Education Association (NEA), National Institute for Teaching Excellence (NIET), National Parent Teacher Association (PTA), National Writing Project (NWP), New Leaders, Third Way, University of Delaware, Wesley College.