Louisiana Schools Using Teacher Leadership to Get Results

September 21, 2022

Louisiana Schools Using Teacher Leadership to Get Results

This week we are celebrating our partnership with public school districts and charter schools in Louisiana to build the capacity of teachers to provide each student with high-quality instruction. Our partnership, named Louisiana Building On Leadership Development (LA BOLD), includes five districts across the state: DeSoto, East Feliciana, Madison, Rapides, and St. John the Baptist Parishes, as well as six Orleans Parish charter schools (L.B. Landry High School, Martin Berhman Charter School, McDonogh 35 Senior High School, Dwight D. Eisenhower Charter School, Mary McCleod Bethune Elementary Charter School, and Benjamin Franklin Elementary Mathematics and Science School) and is funded in part by a federal Teacher Incentive Fund grant. 


NIET is supporting district and school leaders to create teacher leadership roles, improve classroom observation and feedback, establish collaborative professional learning teams, and offer opportunities for teachers and leaders to earn additional compensation based on multiple measures of effectiveness. By supporting partners to strengthen teaching and learning for students with greater barriers to success, the project also increases equitable access to effective educators in alignment with the Louisiana State Equity Plan.

The support provided to LA BOLD school systems has yielded impressive results over the multi-year partnership. From the 2017-18 school year to the 2019-20 school year, the percentage of teachers rated as effective or above increased from 75% to 80%, based on scores using the NIET Teaching and Learning Standards Rubric. In addition, retention of teachers who were rated as effective or above increased from 80% to 95% from 2017-18 to 2019-20. LA BOLD supports school systems to address the unique needs of their communities and students, while focusing on the goals of strong instruction and student learning growth. Below are a few highlights from the districts, download the LA BOLD infographic here.

Creating Teacher Leadership Roles to Retain Teachers: InspireNOLA Charter Schools

Through the grant, two schools in InspireNOLA - Dwight D. Eisenhower and McDonogh 35 - created teacher leadership structures vital to the school community. Teachers regularly reflect on their practices, striving to grow as educators to make the greatest impact on their students. Classroom teachers jumped at the opportunities for advancement built into the grant, which has established a pipeline of educator talent and has motivated teachers to stay. Throughout the grant period, teachers in InspireNOLA have moved along the career ladder to become mentor teachers and master teachers. Every educator in the charter network has been instilled with a leadership mindset. In addition to teacher leaders, classroom teachers are leading professional development sessions for other teachers in the charter network, sharing their approaches to analyzing school data, delivering best professional practices, and planning engaging and meaningful lessons to meet the needs of high-quality instructional materials, known in Louisiana as Tier 1 curriculum.

The collaboration among staff at the school fostered through data-driven weekly professional learning, complemented by regular feedback and observation, has led to instructional improvement and increased student achievement growth. From 2021 to 2022, McDonogh 35 Senior High School outperformed the state’s growth in all subjects combined, and Dwight D. Eisenhower outperformed the state’s growth in math and science.

Building a Leadership Pipeline: DeSoto Parish Schools

The LA BOLD grant has highlighted the importance of increasing the pipeline of high-quality leaders at every district and campus. DeSoto Parish Schools administrators identified teacher leaders to serve as a part of an aspiring school leader cohort that would develop skills to become a highly effective principal. NIET supported the district to build the cohort's expertise in foundational leadership, instructional excellence, data-driven decision making, and collaborative practices. The training built on the skills and relationships they already had gained as teacher leaders to strengthen their readiness for a principalship.

This leadership pipeline means that teachers and students benefit from school leaders who are familiar with the student population and can tailor best practices and strategies to district needs. As a result, student achievement has increased. In 2019, DeSoto Parish Schools was ranked as one of the top 10 outstanding school systems in Louisiana for overall growth for two consecutive years and growth among English language learners. DeSoto Parish also received the NIET District Award of Excellence for Educator Effectiveness, an annual award given by NIET to honor school districts that focus on supporting excellent instruction and improving student performance. Nationally, DeSoto performed in the top 4% of school districts in math and English language arts growth, based on a 2017 study by researchers at Stanford’s Center for Education Policy Analysis. Since 2017, DeSoto Parish has consistently outperformed the state on state assessments.

Fostering a District-wide Approach to Instructional Leadership: East Feliciana Public Schools

East Feliciana further exemplifies the success of LA BOLD. Located in rural Clinton, Louisiana, East Feliciana has six schools and enrolls roughly 1,600 students. Of those, 61% are students of color and 76% are economically disadvantaged. For years, the district has been challenged by high teacher turnover and difficulty attracting candidates from outside the area. The district set up principal professional learning groups focused on data-driven decision-making using student and teacher performance. They also provided one-on-one principal support to ensure that school leaders were fully trained on providing feedback to their teacher leaders, including having competencies around the newly adopted high-quality Tier 1 curriculum.

This district-wide approach to developing instructional leadership takes time, but East Feliciana Superintendent Keisha Netterville is investing in her school leaders to ensure that all students succeed: “We made the change to support principals because we needed to make sure that school leaders were equipped to support the teachers on their campus, leading to increased student achievement.” And the needle is starting to move. Teacher retention rates are improving, a pipeline of leaders within the district is developing, and students are showing upward momentum in increasing their mastery. In 2022, East Feliciana Parish Schools was recognized by the state as one of the “Top Districts” for one-year growth on state assessments. East Feliciana saw a four percentage point improvement in the percentage of tests scoring mastery and above on all subjects combined from 2021 to 2022, the highest district one-year growth statewide. 

Ensuring Students have Access to High-Quality Curriculum: Algiers Charter Schools

Another area impacted by LA BOLD is school-based professional learning and coaching, and specifically how districts are better able to support classroom teachers in their use of Tier 1 curricula. Teacher leaders in LA BOLD schools provided intensive classroom coaching and follow up support so that teachers better understand the expectations and instructional shifts required by the new curricula. Monthly master teacher meetings provided an ongoing opportunity for teacher leaders across schools to dig into curricular needs with attention to improving instructional practices based on an analysis of student work. Including teacher leaders on the school leadership teams provided principals with greater expertise in setting goals and creating action plans for addressing specific instructional needs and challenges.

Having teacher leaders with a direct knowledge of their colleagues and the curriculum they are teaching, as well as their students, provides a level of support that is highly responsive to student and teacher needs. This responsiveness is critical given the importance of implementing Tier 1 curricula. Jennifer Campbell, Algiers Charter’s TAP director, puts it this way: “The learning definitely does not stop. What has helped our team has been our follow-up support, where we meet as a team and provide feedback on our documents – even offering assistance with developing next steps. We are working together as a group." This effort has resulted in student growth. Martin Behrman Charter Academy of Creative Arts & Science outperformed the state’s growth in math from 2021 to 2022.

Increasing Teacher and School Leader Skills: St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools

LA BOLD helped St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools (SJBP) focus on developing the skills of teacher leaders and school leaders to lead instructional improvement, support and retain teachers, and increase student learning. This strategy transformed the district’s approach to professional learning by reducing reliance on external “sit and get” workshops, and instead building the skills of teacher and school leaders to provide individualized coaching and collaborative learning opportunities for teachers in their buildings. By strengthening teaching across all classrooms, every student has access to an effective teacher.

Through the strengthened school-based professional learning and coaching, SJBP is better able to support classroom teachers in their use of high-quality, Tier 1 instructional materials and curricula. Teacher leaders are providing intensive classroom coaching and follow-up support so that teachers better understand the expectations and instructional shifts required by the new curricula. In 2022, John L. Ory Communications Magnet Elementary outperformed the state in all subjects combined and in all tested subject areas. From 2021 to 2022, six schools improved their performance and four of those schools saw greater improvement than the state in all subjects combined: Emily C. Watkins Elementary, Lake Pontchartrain Elementary School, John L. Ory Communications Magnet Elementary, and West St. John Elementary.

Supporting Learning Growth for Economically Disadvantaged Students: Madison Parish School District

In Madison Parish School District, the opportunity to receive individual coaching, and to be part of collaborative learning teams, is highly valued by teachers and has helped to reduce teacher turnover. Through LA BOLD, teachers receive valuable professional learning that is customized to the needs of their students, as well as to their individual needs as a teacher.

In 2019, Madison Parish earned top-growth status among students from African American backgrounds, students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, and students with disabilities. In 2022, Madison High School outperformed the state’s growth in all subjects combined.

Creating a Culture of Instructional Excellence: Rapides Parish Schools

The LA BOLD grant supported efforts across participating Rapides Parish schools to create a culture of instructional excellence that has supported improvements in student outcomes. School leaders facilitated instructional leadership team meetings to build the capacity of teacher leaders as instructional leaders on each campus. In addition, teacher leaders provided weekly teacher collaboration meetings focused on effective instruction and provided instructional modeling and coaching in classrooms to support teachers with effective instructional practices. One 15-year veteran teacher said that the training and support provided through LA BOLD changed how she planned and delivered effective instruction aligned to student needs. Weekly teacher collaboration and in-classroom instructional support strengthened the collective understanding of effective teaching and learning and strengthened school culture.

All of these efforts have resulted in student growth. From 2021 to 2022, one of the grant schools, Martin Park Elementary, outperformed the state’s growth in all subjects combined as well as in ELA and science. Other grant schools also outperformed the state’s growth in specific subject areas: L.S. Rugg Elementary outperformed the state’s growth in ELA, Alma Redwine and Carter C. Raymond outperformed the state’s growth in math and social studies, and Arthur F. Smith outperformed the state’s growth in science.

Annual Progress in Student Achievement Growth

During the challenging school years from 2021 to 2022, 18 LA BOLD schools across grant partnership saw positive growth on state assessments, and 14 of those schools outperformed the state’s growth in all subjects combined. Over the grant period, three LA BOLD schools were named NIET Founder’s Award Finalists: Mansfield High School in 2018, Slaughter Elementary Schools in 2020, and Logansport High School in 2022. NIET selects Founder's Award recipients based on their efforts to make instructional excellence the cornerstone of school improvement, plan for regular professional learning focused on the daily needs of teachers and students, create a culture of collaboration and reflection, and leverage teacher leaders and school leaders to drive student growth.

Continued Impact of LA BOLD

By ensuring teachers continue to grow in their instructional skills and remain in teaching, the LA BOLD partnership provided students in these schools a better chance to be taught by effective teachers. The successful work in partner districts has provided lessons learned that are informing state policy. State initiatives to support the development of teacher leaders, to improve classroom instruction through the use of collaborative learning teams, and to create school level instructional leadership teams and a few of the ways that LA BOLD districts have had an impact. The lessons learned in LA BOLD offer promising strategies for districts and schools looking to improve educator effectiveness and retention at a time when they are most critical.