Spotlighting Innovators of a New Teacher-Led Profession

The votes are in, and P.S. 9, a Manhattan elementary school with a determined block of teachers who pressed for the chance to work collaboratively, has won the $25,000 Rohatyn Prize. Congratulations to P.S. 9 and all our five finalists, all of whom are pioneering teacher-led school improvement.

Teaching Matters has extolled the benefits of teacher-led learning for years. We’ve revamped our professional development models to emphasize teacher leadership and sustainability. We are partners in the national TeachStrong and Teach to Lead movements to modernize and elevate the teaching profession. We spearheaded the first New York Teacher Leadership Summit powered by Teach to Lead to seed teacher-led initiatives across NY State. And that’s why this year’s crop of applicants to the Elizabeth Rohatyn Prize for Schools Where Teaching Matters was so gratifying to us.

This is a particularly exciting time. Select school systems are making progress, bringing a new energy to the profession. New York City is providing new career pathways for teachers. They are creating new leadership roles for teachers, ending the practice of isolated classroom teaching in favor of team approaches, and developing new ways to increase the reach and impact of the most effective teachers.

In addition, after years of bitter disagreements there is national common ground forming among partners as disparate as TFA and the AFT. We are now agreeing that to improve education we have to radically rethink how teachers are prepared and positioned to lead in their own profession.

The education reform movement was right to recognize that equal access to great teaching is crucial to ALL children’s success. But while we asked more of teachers, we did little to elevate or support the profession in ways consistent with other highly skilled professions. And we all the know the results: we have driven many prospective and current teachers away from the profession. School systems across the country are facing critical shortages, especially in urban areas.

But our five Rohatyn Prize finalists show us that change is here. Each of these local innovators can speak to an approach that has made teachers central to their school improvement strategy. These are not only schools where teaching matters, but where teachers are positioned to lead change they knew was necessary. These are schools that are rethinking the profession and roles for teachers; they are recognizing and unleashing the potential of teachers. These are schools that are seeing dividends for their children. And these schools should serve as a roadmap for others that have yet to sufficiently tap and encourage the skill and professionalism of teachers within their buildings.

We are thrilled that the Rohatyn Prize is helping to shine a light on leaders of a new paradigm.