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Mathematics and Science Enhancement (MASE): An inquiry into teaching and learning

author: Linda Gregg
published: 07/20/2000
posted to site: 07/20/2000

"Pros and Cons of Using Teacher Leaders"

sharing questions, lessons learned and progress to date
by Linda Gregg

Notes and overheads for a presentation at the Lessons Learned Conference June 5 & 6, 2000

Mathematics and Science Enhancement

An inquiry into teaching and learning

An inquiry into professional development

Clark County School District, Las Vegas, Nevada

The question was never "Leadership Development. Based on the context of our work, the questions were:
"How do we shape leadership development?"
"How do we build capacity?"
"How do we ensure substantive professional development as we scale up every level of the project?"

Who are the leaders? MASE leaders are all of the following.

overhead #1: MASE Leaders

  • Teachers On Special Assignment (TOSAs)
  • Classroom teachers
  • School team leaders
  • Area teacher leaders
  • District teacher leaders
  • Principals and assistant principals
  • Administrators
TOSA - teachers hired to provide professional development full time
Classroom teachers - lead by example, communicate with parents, professional development strengthens their voice, advocates (essential to project success)
School team leaders - communication link between MASE staff and school staff
Area teacher leaders - leaders for all schools within the six geographic divisions of the district
District teacher leaders - classroom teachers who lead MASE PD sessions
Principals and Assistants - 6-8 three-hour leadership development sessions per year
Administrators - support project goals, attend national and or local sessions

What are the roles of MASE leaders? MASE leaders have the following roles

overhead #2: Leadership Roles

  • Learners
  • Advocates
  • Vision builders
  • Designers - Planners
  • Facilitators
  • Collaborators
  • Implementers
  • (Self) Assessors - Evaluators
TOSAs are the heart and soul of the project. Every project success is a result of their expertise and dedication. The MASE leadership development process contributed to their expertise. However, more leaders were needed to meet the demands for MASE professional development, and it was evident that there was a gap between the level of expertise of the TOSAs and teacher leaders.

The question then was "How do we scale up the leadership development process for future leaders?" The design that evolved has two components, leadership development sessions and a mentorship process. We have found that just as children learn by doing, teacher leaders learn by leading.

Overhead #3: Tiered Leadership Development There are four tiers in our leadership development plan:

  • Participate in MASE workshops, seminars, institutes
  • Participate in mentorship program: Observe sessions, assist, co-facilitate, lead
  • Participate in professional development design and leadership sessions
  • Team to design, implement, evaluate, refine sessions
Scaling up the project while maintaining substantive professional development is possible because of the expertise of the TOSAs, project consultants and teacher leaders. MASE is designed as a collaborative inquiry into teaching and learning of students and adults, building leadership potential of all participants.

Initially, we believed that teacher leaders needed to learn and use the curriculum materials with their students, participate in content courses, and in about two years would start leading sessions. We found however, that many never felt they were "ready". We are now having more success teaming novice leaders with expert leaders in the mentorship process so they begin early in the process learning by doing with the support of an experienced leader.

"Leading" has become more about sharing the process and learning together, developing a learning community. An example of a mentor and leadership team would be a TOSA and a new teacher leader who co-facilitate the session with a novice leader who observes the session as a future leader. Another example would be a project consultant and TOSA collaborating to mentor leaders by teaming to design a course syllabus, implement, evaluate and refine a session or series of sessions.

Leadership Development is challenging, and it has generated questions such as:

1) What do you do with a shrinking group of teacher leaders? Attrition is a continuous concern. Leaders move, have children, become administrators, TOSAs, and middle school science and mathematics teachers, and they "burn out."

Over time, the original leadership groups were shrinking. At first, we questioned, "Could we add new teachers with the experienced leaders? New teachers have missed so much. How could they catch up? Do we begin new leadership groups? The experienced leaders would not want to go back . . ."

We have found that we could successfully integrate new teachers into the leadership group over time and that revisiting topics and issues actually strengthened the expertise of seasoned leaders. As novice and experienced leaders teamed in the mentorship process, the newer leaders actually proved to be an asset. Many novice leaders were coming to the process with greater awareness and expertise as a result of their participation in MASE sessions and implementation of resources and strategies with students.

The district culture in the past has been to rely on seasoned teachers for leadership. We are finding that first-year teachers are eager to join the project and become leaders. By the third year, these young teachers are quickly becoming expert leaders and are accepted by peers and experienced teachers. They want to learn and are open to standards-based teaching and learning.

2) What are the benefits that motivate teacher leaders to continue in their leadership role?

Teacher leaders tell us that one of the main reasons that they continue in the leadership groups is the opportunity to learn from and with nationally recognized experts. Many form a close working relationship with one project consultant over time in a study group setting. Teacher leaders also collaborate with one or more consultants, learning and frequently contributing to the work of the consultant(s). They say the collaboration benefits them as learners and supports them as professionals. Other professional advantages include attendance at national workshops, seminars, and conferences, collaboration with national experts in field-test projects and leadership stipends. There are too few benefits for leaders. Their work is challenging; we are really asking them to take on a second job.

Leadership development is a continuous process. It is not easy; it is critical. It is a key to maintaining substantive professional development while scaling up. Building leadership capacity is a key to sustainability and the future.

Context:MASE staff of seven Teachers on Special Assignment (TOSAs) 151 K-5 in 2000
LSC, 100 hours of professional development for 2000 teachers
Over 4000 additional K-5 CCSD teachers
800 plus new K-5 teachers each year
High mobility and retirement within the district