Michigan City and Nettle Creek Receive State Grants that Create Opportunities for Teachers to Grow as Leaders

September 10, 2020

Michigan City and Nettle Creek Receive State Grants that Create Opportunities for Teachers to Grow as Leaders

Indiana districts are working with NIET to develop career ladders for educators and increase student achievement – in any learning environment

Educators in Michigan City and Nettle Creek are beginning this unique new year with a new plan: establishing teacher leadership structures to support and coach educators, retain top-notch teachers, and improve student achievement.

The districts will work with the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET) through the state department of education's Indiana Career Ladder program, which is providing planning grants totaling about $275,000. Through these grants, the districts are establishing plans for creating career ladders that will provide opportunities to support the advancement of teachers in their districts – in particular, offering high-performing teachers opportunities to advance and take on new roles and responsibilities. The unique challenges of the pandemic bring added urgency to building capacity and aligning school and district needs, which have the potential to change as the school year progresses.

"Teacher leaders set schools up for success, and they provide a built-in support system for educators – which is especially critical as schools are delivering instruction in different ways and navigating the year ahead," said NIET CEO Dr. Candice McQueen. "Creating pathways for teacher leadership helps recruit and retain excellent teachers and helps schools accelerate toward their goals. Michigan City and Nettle Creek are innovative leaders for investing in these meaningful pathways, and we look forward to supporting their efforts to advance teaching and learning over the long term."

Michigan City, La Porte County, Northwestern Indiana

This support is particularly important as Michigan City started teaching virtually this fall. The plan will tailor instruction for the district's nearly 5,500 students of diverse backgrounds.

Michigan City Area Schools will use its grant of $182,017 to design and implement a career ladder program that will help campuses identify teacher leaders, increase the number of teacher leader roles, support the onboarding and mentoring of new teachers, and provide intentional, instructional support and professional learning across the faculty. At the same time, the program will provide tools to develop principals as instructional leaders. The district will examine current and historical data to create a plan for continuous school improvement and curriculum support, using teacher leadership as an anchor.

"Partnership with NIET will allow us to build a network of teacher leaders across the district supporting and influencing teaching and learning in school while developing coherence within the district," said Cathy Bildhauser, district director for K-12 curriculum and instruction. "This process will support teachers to reach their fullest potential, accelerating student learning outcomes."

"Now more than ever, teachers need support as they move into virtual instruction that engages and accelerates student learning. Through our teacher leadership structures, teachers and building leaders across the district are supported and connected in their work as they collaboratively redesign our instructional model to align with the needs of virtual learners," Bildhauser said. “Our teacher leaders are facilitating positive change as they demonstrate what's possible with students through shared leadership and collaboration within their buildings and across the district."

Nettle Creek, Wayne County, East Central Indiana

Nettle Creek is offering in-person and virtual options this year for its 1,100 students, with the same teachers handling both modalities. Nettle Creek School Corporation Superintendent Dr. Kyle Barrentine emphasized that greater teacher leadership brings greater support.

The Nettle Creek School Corporation's $92,400 in grant funding will go toward the local customization of NIET's TAP System for Teacher and Student Advancement, which provides a framework for teacher leadership, job-embedded professional learning, regular observations and feedback, and performance-based compensation. These practices will ensure Nettle Creek's teachers have regular opportunities to collaborate and coach others and are equipped to offer effective feedback. Additional benefits include a system for onboarding new teachers, and a focus on increasing teacher retention overall.

"The TAP framework 'realizes' that if you want to increase student achievement, you have to increase the capacity of your teachers and their instruction. More than that, the TAP framework forces school administrators to also continuously improve," said Dr. Barrentine, a former TAP educator. "Creating a system for teachers to assume formal leadership structures will ultimately improve teacher and administrator performance. These improvements will not only bring our district into alignment, but will ultimately lead to increased student achievement. Adding teacher leadership structures will only make an already good district great."

"Having extended leadership throughout the entire building helps erase that line between the administration and the teachers. The sooner that line gets erased, the sooner we see that we are all on the same team and have the same goals," Barrentine said. "Providing leadership to more, pandemic or no pandemic, brings us closer together and stronger."

In addition to Michigan City and Nettle Creek, NIET has state career ladder grant partnerships in Whitko Community Schools, Muncie Community Schools, and MSD of Martinsville. Read about their efforts.

About the Indiana Department of Education Career Ladder Program

The Career Ladder grant program was approved through Indiana House Enrolled Act No. 1008 to offer high-performing teachers opportunities to advance in their careers and ensure that more students have exposure to highly effective teachers. More information can be found on the Indiana Department of Education website.

About NIET's Work in Indiana

NIET has a 20-year record building the capacity of teachers and school leaders. Partner schools, districts, states, and universities have seen historic results in student achievement when school-based teachers and leaders guide professional learning.

NIET has had long-standing partnerships in Indiana for more than a decade, impacting 4,000 teachers and 59,000 students. Additionally, NIET works with Marian University's Klipsch Educators College to improve training for new teachers and place candidates in high-need schools. For more information, visit the NIET website. For key findings on NIET's work in teacher leadership, view the report: Invest to Lead: How to Structure and Fund Teacher Leader Roles to Earn the Greatest Return: Better Instruction and Increased Student Achievement.