Governor Branstad, Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds, and Iowa Department of Education Director Brad Buck announced on Monday, March 3 the first group of Iowa school districts selected to launch teacher leadership systems next school year; Van Meter and Earlham are two of those school districts. Teacher leadership systems promise to help students learn more by better meeting their individual needs. These systems also attract and retain more effective teachers by enhancing career opportunities and paying stipends for taking on extra responsibilities. With higher expectations for students, it’s no longer realistic for one principal to provide all the instructional leadership in a school. Teacher and principal leadership teams can support the more complex work required to prepare students for a knowledge-based economy.

"This system will get teachers working together, and that’s the whole goal of the program: to get teachers working with teachers and learning from each other," said Van Meter Superintendent Michael Wright.

One hundred and forty-six of the 346 districts in the state applied, and only 39 were chosen. Districts were selected based on the strength of their application as well as geographic and size diversity. According to Van Meter Superintendent Deron Durflinger, the application process was pretty intense. it consisted of 10 parts with a limit of two pages each. In all, the district submitted more than 20 pages as an application into the system. Each part was then reviewed by a pair of members of the TLC commission who only saw an overview of the application as well as the part they were to assess on a 10-point scale. "It was a challenging process that took a lot of time and effort," said Wright. "I’d like to give credit to all who worked on it because it certainly took more people than just myself."

Durflinger said, "We are excited for the opportunity to continue the development of our teacher leadership system. Increasing leadership capacity in our district is not only great for our teachers, but will have a positive impact on student learning." This system is part of Iowa’s landmark 2013 education reform package. New teacher leadership systems across Iowa will allow teachers to work in greater collaboration with colleagues and learn from each other instead of operating largely in isolation in their classrooms. Teacher leadership systems will be phased in over three years with the goal of all districts participating by 2016-17, although implementation is a local decision.

"This first group of school districts will help transform education across Iowa," said Buck. "The state’s role is to provide leadership and support so they can implement their teacher leadership systems in a way that best meets local needs."

Districts that applied to start teacher leadership systems next fall were required to set a vision and goals for what they plan to accomplish. Requirements include setting a minimum teacher salary of $33,500; improved entry into the profession, including mentoring for new teachers; and a rigorous selection process for leadership roles.

Districts selected will receive about $309 per pupil next school year to implement their teacher leadership systems, and the annual cost statewide is nearly $50 million in FY15, growing to about $150 million annually in the third year. After the initial year of district implementation, the teacher leadership funding rolls into the Iowa school finance formula.

The selected districts, enrolling about one third of Iowa students are Benton; Bettendorf; Burlington; Cedar Rapids; Colo-NESCO; Council Bluffs; Davenport; Delwood; Dubuque; Earlham; East Marshall; East Union; Gilbert; Greene County; Hudson; Humboldt (in collaboration with Twin Rivers); Johnston; Le Mars; Linn-Mar; Marshalltown; Mount Pleasant; Muscatine; North Polk; Norwalk; Oelwein; Ottumwa; Panorama; Pella; Rock Valley; Roland-Story; Saydel; Sioux City; Southeast Polk; Twin Rivers (in collaboration with Humboldt); Van Meter; Waterloo; West; Des Moines; Western Dubuque; and Winterset.