Year started: 2003
Audience(s): The Teacher Leaders Network (TLN) is a highly active network of accomplished teachers engaged in diverse activities—such as mentoring novice and underprepared teachers, supporting National Board Candidates, testing out lesson and assessment templates tied to the Common Core, engaging in policy conversations to advance teaching reforms, and working to transform unions into professional guilds. TLN members span all grades and school settings, from elementary teachers in urban neighborhoods of New York City to high school teachers in the rural Mississippi Delta.
Who Started It: Barnett Berry of the Center for Teaching Quality (CTQ) crafted the initial vision for TLN, working with John Norton (a master of online community-building) to establish the virtual community of teachers with a focus on elevating their solutions in the face of top-down school reform mandates from policymakers who had little or no experience in teaching and learning. Berry recognized three things: (1) Teachers, especially those who are the most effective, had little time to delve into policy and research—and a virtual venue could open up opportunities for them spread their expertise; (2) teachers needed supports in connecting pedagogical expertise with policy and research; and (3) the public trusts teachers, significantly, but rarely has a chance to hear from them in the face of a cacophony of reform chatter from think tank analysts, top-level bureaucrats, union leaders, and self-proclaimed reformers.
# Members: Since its launch in 2003, TLN has grown substantially, with now more than 1,200 classroom experts participating in 15 interlocking virtual communities. TLN is composed of the nation’s most accomplished educators—State and National Teachers of the Year, Presidential Award Winners, Milken Educators, published authors, and teachers who have earned the highest honors from their professional associations. Approximately one-third of TLN members are among the nation’s 98,000 National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs).
The Teacher Leaders Network is a community driven by the ideals of powerful learning opportunities for all students and a public education system built on principles of social justice—both of which require a teaching profession led by teachers themselves. Teaching has long been undermined by the isolation of teachers and the control of it by too many of those who do not know about the needs of students and their families. TLN rests on the belief that advancing student learning for a global economy, the explosion of knowledge bases, and a fully realized democratic society requires dramatic new tools and structures that capitalize on the untapped leadership potential of our nation’s teachers.
TLN is the virtual home to a number of initiatives working under a single mission: to promote the powerful potential of teacher leadership and to improve student learning by advancing the teaching profession. Today, TLN members appear before state and federal legislative hearings, speak (often as the keynote) at national and international conferences, and share their ideas for effective school reform in numerous media outlets. Members open the door to their classrooms through their authorship of essays, articles, blogs, podcasts, and videos, which are widely distributed through CTQ’s website and other external publication outlets, including Education Week Teacher. Now Teacher Leaders Network includes opportunities, with the use of streaming video, to spread their pedagogical expertise, connecting policy to practice in more powerful ways.
When CTQ launched TLN in 2003, the idea of teacher leadership was, at best, a fuzzy concept to most educational policymakers and administrators. Since then, however, TLN has emerged as a “proof of concept” of the power and potential teacher leaders have to effect meaningful change, whether in individual classrooms or on Capitol Hill.
TLN’s greatest strength is the ideas generated by the accomplished teachers in our network. In addition to conversations that occur on the virtual platform itself, teachers also share their ideas with larger audiences. In late fall 2006, for example, TLN launched a rich partnership with Education Week Teacher, a companion publication to Education Week. Larry Ferlazzo, Susan Graham, and Patrick Ledesma currently write TLN-branded blogs there (Classroom Q&A with Larry Ferlazzo, A Place at the Table, and Leading from the Classroom, respectively). Each week, Education Week Teacher features an essay written by a different TLN member. Essay topics range from policy, to practice, to teaching life. The relationship has proven fruitful for both TLN and Teacher.
CTQ also elevates teacher voice through two blogs—transformED on our own website as well as the new Teaching Ahead blog with Education Week Teacher. Ten teachers and CTQ’s own Barnett Berry contribute to the transformED blog, providing commentary about the teaching profession and education reform. The Teaching Ahead blog, which launched in October 2011, features five to seven teacher bloggers each month who tackle key issues in education policy and instructional practice. Teachers’ posts from both sites are regularly included in ASCD’s SmartBrief newsletter, which reaches more than 200,000 subscribers daily.
TLN members are making a difference in their communities through a number of efforts at CTQ, most notably the New Millennium Initiative (NMI). In five initiative sites—Denver, Hillsborough County (FL), Illinois, San Francisco Bay Area, and Washington—NMI teachers are working to advance teaching reforms at the local, state, and national levels. The NMI teams use a combination of face-to-face and virtual organizing tools to work in and across these sites as well as to connect with other virtual communities through TLN. They also partner with community-based organizations in their areas to expand the constituency for progressive teaching policy reforms.
Finally, twelve TLN members worked with Berry in the writing of TEACHING 2030: What We Must Do for Our Students and Our Public Schools … Now and in the Future—a new book that paints a bold and hopeful vision for a 21st century results-oriented teaching profession, spawning an international community of teachers and principals who seek to transcend 20th century policy debates between so-called reformers and the education establishment and who want to build a transformative profession that students deserve.
Added on Jan 24, 2012
Learn more about this community:
An Interview with Barnett Berry