First in a Series by Mike Whittlesey

Tender Loving Care. Total Lung Capacity. The Local Church. The Learning Channel. One three letter query input into a search engine reveals a multitude of possible meanings for the letters T-L-C. In the Iowa educational community, where acronyms are often used in abundance, these three letters have their own distinct label, one that harkens back to the 85th Iowa General Assembly.
The Teacher Leadership and Compensation (TLC) System, a four year process initiated in 2013 by the State Legislature, promised competitive starting salaries to attract new teachers, the reward of leadership opportunities and higher pay for effective teachers, and opportunities for teachers to learn from each other through increased collaboration. With $50 million allocated each year, up to a total of $150 million by the program’s fourth year in 2016-17, the goal was to have the voluntary participation of each of Iowa’s 346 school districts.
The State Department of Education was clear about the importance of raising teacher pay and increasing collaboration. The TLC System was based on the philosophy that improving student learning requires improving the instruction they receive each day. The best way to do this, the Department reasoned, is to empower outstanding teachers to lead the way.
After several meetings and careful preparation, Union Community Schools submitted an application to the State Department of Education, which was approved in January 2015. To address a portion of the staffing component of their plan, the district set about hiring two Instructional Strategists, choosing Dysart-Geneseo Elementary School second grade teacher, Michelle Keegan, and La Porte City Elementary School first grade teacher, Corindy Stoakes, for the positions. Union High School’s Business/Computer instructor, Dale Wambold, was selected as the district’s new Technology Integrationist. Together, the three would form the core of the district’s Teacher Leadership Team, which would also include teachers in each of the district’s four school buildings, serving in a variety of leadership roles.
One of the biggest challenges of implementing a professional development model based on collaboration is finding time for people to, well, collaborate. With no offical classroom assignment to occupy their time, Keegan, Stoakes and Wambold began communicating immediately with staff members in La Porte City and Dysart at the outset of the 2015-16 school year, helping them to understand their new roles as instructional coaches.
Many teachers spend the bulk of their day as the only adult in the classroom. While some teachers are assigned an aide to assist them, the practice of multiple adults working with students in one classroom is generally the exception, not the rule.
For many teachers, visitors to the classroom are few and far between, except for an occasional appearance by the building principal. How would a new model, one that encouraged fellow teachers to observe their colleagues in action, be received by staff members in the Union Community Schools? That was the challenge before the district’s Teacher Leadership Team as the first day of school arrived on August 24, 2015.

Teacher Leadership & Compensation

The Teacher Leadership & Compensation grant provides Union Community Schools $375,000 of grant money to be used over a three year period to address five required elements:

  • A minimum salary of $33,500
  • Additional coaching, mentoring and opportunities for observing instructional practice for new teachers
  • Multiple, different and meaningful leadership roles for teachers
  • A rigorous selection process used to determine teacher leadership roles
  • A professional development program aligned with the Iowa Professional Development Model

Next week: The Union Community School District’s Teacher Leadership Team begins the important work of transforming the quality of education delivered using a professional development model based on collaboration.