Skip Navigation
archived information
Skip Navigation

Back to Ask A REL Archived Responses

REL Midwest Ask A REL Response

October 2020


What does the research say about developing teacher leaders and their effectiveness?


Following an established Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest protocol, we conducted a search for research reports, descriptive studies and literature reviews on developing teacher leaders and their effectiveness. For details on the databases and sources, keywords and selection criteria used to create this response, please see the Methods section at the end of this memo.

Below, we share a sampling of the publicly accessible resources on this topic. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. The search conducted is not comprehensive; other relevant references and resources may exist. For each reference, we provide an abstract, excerpt, or summary written by the study’s author or publisher. We have not evaluated the quality of these references, but provide them for your information only.

Research References

Bagley, S. S., & Margolis, J. (2018). The emergence and failure to launch of hybrid teacher leadership. International Journal of Teacher Leadership, 9(1), 33–46. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Hybrid teacher leadership (HTL)—that is, teachers whose official schedule includes both teaching K-12 students and leading teachers in some capacity—seemed poised to evolve as a more systemic enterprise at the turn of the century; however, implementation has been surprisingly sporadic. In this article, we explore Washington (a state long known for its support of teacher leadership) as a case study of HTL’s failure to launch fully as a statewide initiative. Through examining the intersection of recent research and the diverse considerations related to the creation and maintenance of HTL roles, our goal is to provide meaningful insights into the re-envisioning of HTL in the 21st century. While numerous challenges prevail with structuring and supporting HTL, its potential to broadly impact teacher learning, professional development, and student outcomes make the enterprise worth continued consideration and support.”

Glazerman, S., & Seifullah, A. (2012). An evaluation of the Chicago Teacher Advancement Program (Chicago TAP) after four years (Final Report). Princeton, NJ: Mathematica. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “In 2007, using funds from the federal Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) and private foundations, the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) began piloting its version of a schoolwide reform model called the Teacher Advancement Program (TAP). Under the TAP model, teachers can earn extra pay and take on increased responsibilities through promotion (to mentor teacher or master teacher), and they become eligible for annual performance bonuses based on a combination of their contribution to student achievement (known as ‘value added’) and observed performance in the classroom. The model calls for weekly meetings of teachers and mentors (‘cluster groups’), and regular classroom observations by a school leadership team to help teachers meet their performance goals. The idea behind TAP is that giving teachers performance incentives, along with tools to track their performance and improve instruction, will help schools attract and retain talented teachers and help all teachers raise student achievement. This report is the last in a series of reports providing evidence on the impacts of CPS’ version of TAP, called ‘Chicago TAP.’ It presents findings from the four-year implementation period, with special emphasis on the 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years, the third and fourth years of the program’s rollout in Chicago‚ĶThe authors found that teachers in Chicago TAP schools reported receiving significantly more mentoring support than teachers in similar non-TAP (control) schools. This finding reflects the fact that under the Chicago TAP model, teachers are guided by mentor teachers, and cluster groups meet weekly. They also found that veteran teachers in Chicago TAP schools were more likely than their control group counterparts to provide mentoring support to their colleagues; this finding is consistent with the fact that under Chicago TAP, teachers have the opportunity to assume leadership roles and responsibilities as Chicago TAP mentor or lead teachers. Teachers in Chicago TAP schools (veteran and novice) were aware of their eligibility for performance-based compensation. The authors found that the amount of compensation they expected approached the amount that was eventually paid out; that is, the average expectation was about $900, and the actual amount paid out in bonuses to this group was an average of about $1,100 per teacher. They generally did not find evidence of an impact of Chicago TAP on teacher attitudes or school climate. While the introduction of Chicago TAP led to real changes inside the schools, the program did not consistently raise student achievement as measured by growth in Illinois Standards Achievement Test (ISAT) scores. The authors found evidence of both positive and negative test score impacts in selected subjects, years, and cohorts of schools, but overall there was no detectable impact on math, reading, or science achievement that was robust to different methods of estimation. For example, impacts on science scores overall (across years and cohorts) were positive, but not statistically significant unless they used one particular matching method that excluded some Chicago TAP schools from the analysis. The authors did find evidence suggesting that Chicago TAP increased schools’ retention of teachers, although the impacts were not uniform or universal across years, cohorts, and subgroups of teachers. They found that teachers who were working in Chicago TAP schools in 2007 returned in each of the following three years at higher rates than teachers in comparable non-TAP schools. For example, the authors found that 67 percent of classroom teachers in cohort 1 schools in fall 2007 returned to their same school in fall 2010 compared to about 56 percent of teachers in non-TAP schools, an impact of nearly 12 percentage points. In other words, teachers in Chicago TAP schools in fall 2007 were about 20% more likely than teachers in comparison schools to be in those same schools three years later. When the authors looked at teachers who were working in schools that started Chicago TAP in later years, some of the impact estimates were not statistically significant. The authors also found some evidence of impacts on retention for subgroups of teachers, such as those with less experience, but the pattern of findings was not consistent. When they considered retention of teachers in the district, the authors did not find consistent evidence of a measurable impact. Given that Chicago TAP is a school-specific program, their main focus was on school-level retention, as opposed to retention in the district.”

Jacques, C., Behrstock-Sherratt, E., Parker, A., Bassett, K., Allen, M., Bosso, D., et al. (2017). Investing in what it takes to move from good to great: Exemplary educators identify their most important learning experiences. Washington, DC: American Institutes for Research. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “For the last 4 years, 10 leading education organizations have collaborated on a study series that includes teacher voice in conversations and research about educator effectiveness. Initially conceptualized by teacher leaders from the National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY) and with their continued input, the ‘From Good to Great’ study series has asked exemplary teachers to share which professional supports and experiences helped them to increase their effectiveness as educators as they progressed through the various stages of their careers. There are multiple reasons why exemplary teachers’ perspectives provide key insights for researchers and policy makers, including: (1) The need for smart investments in teacher development; and (2) The need for teacher voice in policy. This report (the third in the study series) summarizes the findings from a 2016 survey of National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) and builds on the results of a similar survey of State and National Teachers of the Year in 2013-2014. Namely: (1) At the preservice stage, once again respondents ranked a high quality clinical practicum as by far the most important experience; (2) This study again confirmed that an effective school principal and mentors (both assigned and informal) rose to the top of the list, with appropriate school placements and common planning time following close behind; (3) National Board Certification and other ongoing formal education (such as graduate coursework) were seen as the most important experiences, followed by self-chosen professional development outside of the school district and collaboration with peers; and (4) At the teacher leader stage, as with the 2013-14 survey, the National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) surveyed thought serving as a mentor or coach was most important for helping them continue to improve their practice, even after they had already been established as effective teachers. These findings call attention to the need for applied learning opportunities for early-career teachers, opportunities for collaboration across the career continuum, and teacher leadership. Other themes that emerged from this survey included the importance of a full-year final clinical practicum and teacher choice in ongoing professional development options, including teacher leadership roles.”

Jacques, C., Weber, G., Bosso, D., Olson, D., & Bassett, K. (2016). Great to influential: Teacher leaders’ roles in supporting instruction. Washington, DC: American Institutes for Research. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “This report is the second in a series from a collaboration of nine leading organizations working to advance teaching and elevate the profession. For years, education leaders have sought to pinpoint how teachers become effective in order to better leverage teachers’ impact on student learning and improve student outcomes. Teacher leadership is receiving increased attention as a potential lever for improved instruction, recruitment and retention of effective teachers, and student outcomes. A growing body of research on teacher leadership models and its potential impact on the field suggests that teacher leaders may play a critical role in creating high-functioning schools that can create sustainable improvements in teaching and learning. This report offers insights from teacher leaders themselves on this topic, exploring the specific ways in which teacher leaders can contribute to instructional improvement. This report includes three main sections: (1) the characteristics of teacher leaders; (2) the roles teacher leaders take in improving teacher practice; and (3) the supports and barriers to teacher leadership. The report concludes with specific policy recommendations for supporting teacher leadership in state and local contexts.”

Luft, J. A., Dubois, S. L., Kaufmann, J., & Plank, L. (2016). Science teacher leadership: Learning from a three-year leadership program. Science Educator, 25(1), 1–9. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Teachers are professional learners and leaders. They seek to understand how their students learn, and they participate in programs that provide new instructional skills, curricular materials, and ways to become involved in their community. This study follows a science teacher leadership program over a three-year period of time. There were approximately 30 participants per year. The teachers who participated in the program came from two different states in the United States. Interviews, documents and surveys were used to follow the development of the program and the professional growth of the participants. The qualitative and quantitative analysis reveals that: not all participants became teacher leaders, there were different levels of difficulty associated with the presented leadership skills and knowledge bases, there are some essential knowledge bases associated with teacher leadership, the follow-up program varied between sites, and teachers engaged in leadership in different ways. For those in science teacher education, this study helps fill the void of research in this area, and it suggests that science teacher leadership should be an option for professional development.”

Natale, C. F., Gaddis, L., Bassett, K., & McKnight, K. (2016). Teacher career advancement initiatives: Lessons learned from eight case studies. Arlington, VA: National Network of State Teachers of the Year. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “The purpose of this report is to describe what the authors learned from studying eight teacher career advancement initiatives implemented across a variety of contexts, including urban, suburban, and rural districts; high poverty and affluent districts; and in schools/districts both with and without strong union presence. They describe key principles for developing successful, sustainable teacher career advancement initiatives. This report is the product of a three-year study conducted by the Center for Educator Learning and Effectiveness at Pearson and the National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY) in partnership with the National Education Association and Public Impact and with assistance from the American Federation of Teachers. It represents the second phase of the authors’ research into how the teaching profession needs to evolve to meet 21st century career expectations for a new generation of teachers and learners. This report provides their findings from case studies of schools and districts with established career advancement initiatives as well as several in the early stages of implementation. The goal is to identify, based on their research, the components of a successful, sustainable teacher career continuum that has a positive impact on teacher recruitment, teacher retention, teacher job satisfaction, and student achievement.”

National Institute for Excellence in Teaching. (2018). Unleashing teacher leadership: How formal teacher leader roles can improve instruction (Teach Factor Report). Santa Monica, CA: Author. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Policymakers and education system leaders who invest in formal instructional teacher leadership need to carefully consider how to do so in ways that will best sustain teacher leadership and maximize its benefits for instruction and learning. This report outlines how giving teacher leaders responsibility, accountability, and authority to drive instruction can accelerate student learning. In this report, the National Institute for Excellence in Teaching (NIET) offers ten recommendations for maximizing investments in formal instructional teacher leadership roles: (1) Design formal teacher leadership responsibilities to encompass all of the main schoolwide systems for improving instruction; (2) Leverage teacher leadership to create coherence across major instructional improvement initiatives; (3) Establish multiple, interconnected leadership positions to increase opportunity, reach, and impact; (4) Emphasize that formal instructional teacher leadership roles enhance, rather than limit, opportunities for all staff to engage in leadership; (5) Select teacher leaders who have the right set of accomplishments, skills, and dispositions to succeed; (6) Provide teacher leaders with training and ongoing support focused on specific job responsibilities; (7) Empower teacher leaders by adopting common tools and protocols, including a research-based instructional framework or rubric; (8) Create and protect release time during the week for teacher leaders to lead, and give them enough time to build trust and long-term relationships that enable success; (9) Make more strategic use of existing resources to fund formal teacher leadership positions; and (10) Place teacher leaders at the school level, but expect districts to play a key role in sustaining and leveraging teacher leadership for maximum impact.”

National Institute for Excellence in Teaching. (2019). Investing in teacher leadership: A better way to make job-embedded professional learning a reality in every school. Santa Monica, CA: Author. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Every year we invest billions in professional development to build teachers’ capacity to better address the diverse academic needs of every student. Yet student learning continues to fall short of expectations in too many places. We must ask the question: Is there a better way to invest in the professional learning of teachers across America? Our answer is an emphatic yes. NIET has spent 20 years building the capacity of teachers and school leaders. We have seen that professional learning is best led by teachers and leaders within the school building. Funding flexibility under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) offers a renewed opportunity to fund teacher leadership as a strategy for schoolwide instructional improvement. In this report, we provide recommendations that leaders at district, state, and federal levels can use to align funding and practices to invest in building the instructional capacity of teachers through professional learning led by teacher leaders.”

Nguyen, T. D. (2017, April). The roles of teacher leadership in school improvement: Past, present, and future. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San Antonio, Texas. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “The landscape of teacher leadership in school improvement is a changing landscape that is getting more complex over time. As teachers are expected to take on more roles school improvement efforts, there is a particular need to know if and how they are prepared to meet the increasing demands of their jobs. This paper discusses the role of teacher leadership and how it has changed and how it has evolved in the last forty years.”

Simmons, B., & Baenen, N. (2017). Teacher Leader Corps (TLC) final report: 2013-14 through 2015-16 (DRA Report No. 16.09). Cary, NC: Wake County Public School System. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “The Teacher Leaders Corps had many strengths and was fairly successful in reaching its implementation and short-term goals. Central training quality was considered strong and attendance rates were high (especially in Years 1 and 2). Of those who began the TLC work in 2013-14, approximately 60% participated all three years. At the school level, about half of the intended dissemination events took place. Professional learning sessions emphasized use of various digital resources. Discovery Education resources were available to all schools and provided evidence that online resources were utilized by teachers and students. DE utilization was higher in Year 1 than in Year 2 or 3; and teachers utilized DE more than students. Decreased use of DE after Year 1 could reflect less interest or an increase in digital resources available to schools. TLC members utilized technology appropriately and in a variety of ways based on classroom observations. The school team model utilized in TLC provided a better opportunity for sustaining the effort than training sessions with no follow-up. Ways to further increase the likelihood of implementation, impact, and sustainability in schools include putting structures in place at the central and school level to facilitate and monitor teacher implementation and to provide more coaching for teachers.”

Tyler, B., Britton, T., Nilsen, K., Iveland, A., & Nguyen, K. (2019). Investing in science teacher leadership: Strategies and impacts in the NGSS Early Implementers Initiative (Evaluation Report #7). San Francisco, CA: WestEd. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “NGSS Early Implementers is a six-year initiative created to help eight California school districts and two charter management organizations, supported by WestEd’s K-12 Alliance, implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The Initiative has used a train-the-trainer model to maximize spread of professional learning about the NGSS in each participating district. However, they expanded upon this model by explicitly preparing teachers to not only provide leadership in how to implement NGSS teaching, but also to become catalysts for change in their districts. This evaluation report explains how the Initiative prepared teachers for leadership in NGSS teaching, including how it created a culture of collaboration that produced change agents for science education and NGSS implementation. It also conveys how the leadership experience affected teacher leaders’ actions and professional growth. Intended for school, state, and district leaders, the report addresses the following: (1) The organizational structure of teacher leadership in the Initiative; (2) How teachers were prepared for leadership in NGSS teaching; (3) How the Initiative empowered and challenged teachers to be change agents in their districts; (4) The many ways that Early Implementer teachers have provided leadership in NGSS implementation; and (5) The impact of the Initiative on teacher professional growth. Finally, recommendations are provided to administrators for encouraging and leveraging teacher leadership in support of NGSS implementation.”

Valdez, M., & Broin, A. (2015). Untapped: Transforming teacher leadership to help students succeed. New York, NY: New Leaders. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Across the education field, there is unusual consensus that strong teacher leaders are key to improving our nation’s schools. Unfortunately, clear expectations for what teacher leaders should do, and strategies to prepare them to do it, are few and far between. One recent survey found that while 86 percent of schools have teacher leader roles, just 32 percent offered specialized leadership training for teachers stepping into those roles. New Leaders’ Emerging Leaders Program (ELP) is a job-embedded teacher leadership development program that has trained over 1,000 participants in 13 high-need school districts since it was launched in 2011. ELP works with schools to strategically empower their best teachers to lead colleagues toward similar success. It helps principals carefully select candidates with the right foundational skills to deliver on that promise, then it helps participants master a focused set of high-impact instructional and adult leadership skills through targeted, on-the-job practice, expert coaching, and actionable feedback. Early insights after two years of data collection include: (1) Teacher leaders can immediately boost student learning in their schools; (2) Teacher leaders can quickly develop and apply critical leadership skills; and (3) Teacher leaders can fill gaps in the leadership pipeline. This paper describes ELP and these findings in greater detail and offers several recommendations for principals, policymakers, and district and charter leaders based on ELP’s experience.”

Wenner, J. A., & Campbell, T. (2017). The theoretical and empirical basis of teacher leadership: A review of the literature. Review of Educational Research, 87(1), 134–171. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “In the current review, we examined teacher leadership research completed since York-Barr and Duke published the seminal review on teacher leadership in 2004. The review was undertaken to examine how teacher leadership is defined, how teacher leaders are prepared, their impact, and those factors that facilitate or inhibit teacher leaders’ work. Beyond this, the review considered theories informing teacher leadership, teacher leadership within disciplinary contexts, and the roles of teacher leaders in social justice and equity issues. The most salient findings were (a) teacher leadership, although rarely defined, focused on roles beyond the classroom, supporting the professional learning of peers, influencing policy/decision making, and ultimately targeting student learning; (b) the research is not always theoretically grounded; (c) principals, school structures, and norms are important in empowering or marginalizing teacher leaders; and (d) very little teacher leadership research examines issues of social justice and equity.”


Keywords and Search Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • “Instructional leadership”

  • Instructional teacher leadership roles

  • “Teacher leadership” effectiveness years

Databases and Search Engines

We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of more than 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Additionally, we searched IES and Google Scholar.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published over the last 15 years, from 2005 to present, were included in the search and review.

  • Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations.

  • Methodology: We used the following methodological priorities/considerations in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types—randomized control trials, quasi-experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, and so forth, generally in this order, (b) target population, samples (e.g., representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected), study duration, and so forth, and (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, and so forth.
This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Midwest Region (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL Midwest) at American Institutes for Research. This memorandum was prepared by REL Midwest under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0007, administered by American Institutes for Research. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.