DES MOINES — The governor and the leader of the state Education Department say the program that allows veteran teachers to become mentors to their less-experienced colleagues is showing benefits.

Department of Education director Ryan Wise says schools have been working on their teacher leadership plans in the last four to six years. “What we know is– that the longer schools emphasize teacher leadership and giving teachers a role and a voice in improving the quality of instruction — the greater impact that has on student learning,” Wise says.

He says the data shows it has helped schools keep teachers. “Eighty-nine percent of school districts mostly or fully met the goals that they set related to teacher attraction…and retention,” according to Wise. He says the program has done a lot to help share information among teachers.

“We also see great results related to the frequency and quality of collaboration that teachers have with one another. I think that teacher leadership has really changed the nature of the teaching profession in Iowa for the better,” Wise says. “Teachers are much more likely to work together than they were before we had this system in place.”

Wise says it has also made an important difference for students. “The percentage of districts that are mostly or fully meeting the achievement goals they have set have gone up now for three years in a row. So, across a number of measures, teacher leadership in Iowa is having a positive impact,” Wise explains.

Last school year was the third with all districts participating, and 58% reported mostly or fully meeting local achievement goals, up from 56% in 2017-18 and 50 percent in 2016-17. The program comes with additional state money to pay more to the teacher leaders — and Wise says that is key.

“Very important,” he says, “you know the state invests about 163 million dollars annually in teacher leadership. And that really gives schools the ability to create roles that have a clearly defined mission to them. And additional compensation as well. That compensation really recognizes a teacher’s ability and impact and allows schools to do some creative things,” Wise says.

The system is the centerpiece of an education reform package adopted by legislators in 2013 and was phased in over three years. The Department of Education says more than 10,000 teachers in Iowa’s 327 school districts are in leadership roles through the program. The end-of-year report is available on the Iowa Department of Education’s website.