Illinois created a Teacher Leader Endorsement (TLE) in 2012. Research from Teach Plus shows that teachers who have the endorsement found their learning valuable, but that the endorsement did not open up opportunities for them to advance in their careers.
The TLE was introduced with the intention of solving two problems. First, many teachers were pursuing Type 75 administrative certificates in order to earn a master’s degree and advance on the salary scale without transitioning to an administrative role. As a result, districts paid higher salaries to these teachers even though they were not putting this learning to use in new leadership roles. Second, many teachers who were not interested in administrative positions found their options for career advancement extremely limited. The new endorsement, designed specifically to promote leadership from the classroom, was intended to open up new career pathways and help keep highly effective teachers in the classroom.
By 2018, TLE programs were established at universities across the state, and more than 400 teachers had earned the endorsement. With implementation well underway, a team of Illinois teachers and Teach Plus Teaching Policy Fellows decided to investigate how effective this new endorsement has been in promoting teacher leadership and providing additional opportunities for teacher leadership in Illinois in its first five years. The team looked at the effectiveness of TLE programs, as reported by those who completed them, and asked whether the endorsement was working as intended to help teachers move into leadership roles in their schools.
In this brief, Teach Plus details its findings and offers some recommendations for increasing teacher leadership in Illinois based on survey responses of endorsement holders. The report also highlights additional research into promising approaches to teacher leadership from across the country.