State education officials are attributing a rise in student achievement results to a new teacher leadership and compensation system rolled out over the past few years. 

The Teacher Leadership and Compensation (TLC) System, which was phased in over a three-year period beginning in 2014, is built on the premise that rewarding effective teachers with leadership opportunities and higher pay will result in better teachers — and thus better learning results — overall. The system transitioned many of the best classroom teachers into higher-paying positions in which they mentor other teachers full time rather than teach in the classroom. 

An end-of-year report from school districts showed teacher leadership was a factor in student achievement gains, with 56 percent of districts reporting they fully or mostly met their local student achievement goals in the 2017-18 school year, according to a release from the Iowa Department of Education. That number is up from 50 percent of districts the year before. Student achievement goals are based on multiple measures, such as the state test, literacy screening assessments and student engagement data.

The same report showed 89 percent of school districts met local goals for attracting and retaining teachers in the 2017-18 school year, up from 85 percent the year before. Most districts credited the teacher leadership system’s salary increases and meaningful leadership opportunities with their success in retaining all or most of their teachers. 

second report, conducted by American Institutes for Research, identified common strategies that led to successful implementation of teacher leadership plans in six Iowa school districts.

“Iowa is a trailblazer in teacher leadership, which is about supporting and empowering teachers to do their best work so that students can do their best work,” Iowa Department of Education Director Ryan Wise said. “We’ve known for some time that Iowa’s teacher leadership system is elevating the teaching profession, and we’re seeing a positive impact on student achievement as well.” 

The strategies included establishing full-time instructional coaches, tailoring professional development to meet the individual needs of schools, and including teachers and other stakeholders in the planning and implementation of teacher leadership plans.