WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Doug Jones (D-AL), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Jim Inhofe (R-OK) and Jack Reed (D-RI) have 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. 

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.

“Investing in Iowa’s educators is investing in our future leaders. Unfortunately, rural school districts are struggling to attract and retain teachers, often due to lack of administrative support and professional development opportunities. The Teachers Are Leaders Act will enable teachers to develop their skills and take on additional responsibilities, while providing a better-quality education for our students,” said Senator Joni Ernst.

“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.

“Boosting teachers’ ability to improve student learning will build a better future for our kids and our country. Iowa’s teacher leadership program has proven results with increases in both retaining excellent teachers and districts meeting their achievement goals. This legislation will help us spread that success nationwide,” said Senator Grassley.

“As a father of three children currently enrolled in the Colorado public school system, I understand the pivotal role teachers play in the development of our students,” said Senator Gardner. “When quality teachers leave the classroom because they don’t have the necessary resources, it is our children who suffer. Students everywhere deserve to have the best learning opportunities at their disposal and that starts with providing leadership opportunities and support for our teachers.”

“Great teachers are great equalizers - they can help students overcome any barrier to learning. This bill helps local communities support the development of great teachers and keep them in the classroom,” said Senator Murphy.

“Teachers play a critical role in student success,” said Senator Inhofe. “By supporting local teacher leadership programs, we can do more to support our teachers by creating and expanding professional development opportunities to improve teacher retention.”

“The National Network of State Teachers of the Year salutes Sens. Coons, Ernst, Grassley, Gardner, Murphy, Whitehouse, Roberts, Inhofe, and Reed for their compelling policy initiative and understanding that teacher leadership is a critical thread in this country’s fabric that enables educators to advocate for the issues and practices that provide all students with exceptional and equitable learning opportunities,” 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 tens of thousands 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.

“We know teachers want opportunities to lead from the classroom, yet we’ve seen that teacher leadership roles typically come without quality training and support. This situation does a double disservice: it takes teaching time away from the educators best prepared to accelerate student learning and it fails to equip them with the skills they need to lead other teachers to similar success. The Teachers Are Leaders Act helps address this challenge by creating opportunities for teachers to access high-quality leadership training that arms them with the knowledge and skills they need to work together with their principal and colleagues to make hiring decisions, set curriculum, design in-school training, coach their peers, and establish other shared practices that lead to better outcomes for students,” said Jean Desravines, CEO, New Leaders.

Read the bill text here.

Read a one-pager on the bill here

The Teachers Are Leaders Act is supported by: NNSTOY, NBPTS, Teach Plus, Alliance for Excellence in Education, 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), New Leaders, Third Way, University of Delaware, and American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (AACTE).