Welcome to the New Profit network, Leading Educators! As a recent investment in the New Profit Innovation Fund, Leading Educators is raising students' academic achievement by expanding the influence and impact of highly effective teachers in a teacher leadership program.
For a closer look at their story, we asked CEO Jonas Chartock 5 questions about Leading Educators' past, present, and future, as well as his passions outside the organization.
1. What specific gap or deficiency in education was Leading Educators created to fill?
Leading Educators exists to address the fact that students from low-income families are not provided access to a quality education and the life opportunities that result from that access. They are disproportionately assigned to classrooms with ineffective teachers, even when we know that the quality of the teacher is the most important in-school factor when it comes to a student’s achievement. At Leading Educators, we believe that the answer to these problems lies within the power of teacher leaders. By developing the capacity of teacher leaders and creating opportunities for high performing teacher to lead, we are increasing the number of highly effective teachers.
2. What data can you share about the big challenge you are trying to solve?
By the fourth grade, students from low income families are, on average, 3 grade levels behind their peers. Effective teachers in schools serving students from low income families leave at twice the rate of other teachers. According to a recent report on distributive leadership by Bain and Company, only 10% of teachers feel responsible for developing the instructional skills of their colleagues. In part, this is because our teacher leaders have not been empowered to increase the capacity of their peers. At the same time, we know that the average of principal in our country is still responsible for supervising 37 instructional staff. With the increased rigor that we expect from students, it’s impossible for the principal to do it alone. We have to leverage the power of teacher leaders.
3. To help people understand the Leading Educators model, can you share an anecdote or case study about one student, teacher school, etc.?
Here is an example from our work in New Orleans:
Since 2009, under the co-leadership of Leading Educators alumni Claire Jecklin and Chana Benenson, Sci High has moved from a D school to a B school. Jecklin, who started building the school's literacy program while a teacher leader in the Leading Educators Fellowship, says, "Behind every transformative initiative at Sci High is a Leading Educator." A review of the school's results shows what she means:
Christina Hull, the behavior dean, lowered Sci High's suspension rate from 31.3% to 25% through her Leader Impact Project—a culminating teacher leadership initiative completed as part of the Leading Educators Fellowship.
Ali Gaffey built upon that work during her Leader Impact Project and led freshmen students to an average of 3 years of growth in literacy while in the fellowship.
Current fellow Lauren Hardy is working to expand Gaffey's work to impact literacy schoolwide.
Alumnus Eric Aufderhar worked to create and align a team of special education teachers, interventionists, and para-professionals to best serve all students at Sci High.
Uriel Rodriguez, a current fellow, is working to make sure that all students enrolled in Algebra I pass the end-of-course exam and that all freshmen receiving Tier II and Tier III interventions have the skills necessary to advance to the next course in math.
Sci High demonstrates how an investment in teacher leadership has cumulative impact with each teacher building on the work of others. Sci High is not alone in its investment in New Orleans teacher leaders; more than a third of the city's schools have enrolled teacher leaders in formal training as part of a concerted effort to retain teachers over time. What's more, we are proud of the diversity of fellows in the New Orleans cohort, nearly half of whom are teacher leaders of color, reflecting the students that we serve. These teacher leaders are models for their colleagues and students alike.
4. What's your systemic vision for Leading Educators? How does what you're doing move the entire education system in a new direction?
By investing in the roles and skills of teacher leaders, we have the opportunity to dramatically improve the way schools are managed for the students they serve. Sound teacher leadership will retain our best teachers, creating a more dynamic, sustainable profession. It will provide new and underperforming teachers the support necessary to develop their work, it will make the principal position more doable over the long haul, and, most importantly, it will ensure that there are great teachers in every classroom.
5. Putting aside your work with Leading Educators, what are you most passionate about?
I am passionate about New Orleans. As an amateur musician and lover of live music, I relish the opportunity to lose myself in the sites, smells, and sounds of a New Orleans second line parade. In addition, I am passionate about working to support friends who are leading efforts to bring about greater racial and social justice in our city. Whether it is participating in protest actions or building awareness through social media, I feel fortunate to be able to spend my time and resources on efforts to dismantle systemic racism in our city.