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NEA Foundation Courses Helping Educators Become School Leaders

Found In: Teaching Strategies

Building leadership, teacher-led professional growth, and laying the groundwork for transformative and positive union-district collaboration are critical components for a successful school district.

In an effort to equip educators with the impactful tools they need to lead their profession, the NEA Foundation has released a number of courses designed to bring educators and other invested stakeholders together as collaborative partners.

“The nature of public education has changed,” says Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “For teachers and unions to be a part of the key decisions that will shape the future of the teaching profession, they must have knowledge and capacity on issues of teaching and learning. Building labor-management collaboration skills is also critical to leading the profession. These courses are designed to help build both their knowledge and leadership skills.”

The online courses offer ways of ensuring better collaboration amongst education stakeholders, while also providing a forum to strengthen schools through team-based problem solving. They’re also free to use by any teachers, labor leaders, educators, and any interested public school stakeholder who’s looking to broaden their educational horizons.

The courses were designed by educational experts across the country. While they were created with the larger NEA community in mind, the resources can be used by any educators, schools, and districts that are looking to improve school-wide collaborative efforts.

There are currently 14 courses aligned under the broader headings of New Forms of Labor-Management Relations, Leading Change and Reform, Context of Reform, and Teaching and Learning. The NEA Foundation plans on launching three more courses in May, 2014 and will continue to work with educators and experts to update and maintain all of their courses to ensure educators can maximize their usefulness.

Sample Video from Session 1: PAR Overview and Purpose

Susan Moore Johnson, Director of the Project on the Next Generation of Teachers at the Harvard Graduate School of Education talks about the importance of Peer Assistance and Review (PAR)

“The Foundation had a vision to develop a set of online courses—free, open source, and practical—that would be focused on supporting educators across the country who are working, or beginning to work, in labor-management teams to improve outcomes for students,” says Andrew Bundy, a Partner at Community Matters who has been working with the NEA Foundation to create and best implement their collaborative courses. 

Bundy developed four of the NEA Foundation’s courses: Leading and Sustaining Reform, Collaborative Problem Solving and Action, Facilitating Effective Labor-Management Teams, and Effective School-Community Collaboration.  

List of Available Courses

  • Leading and Sustaining Reform
  • Collaborative Problem Solving and Action
  • Facilitating Effective Labor-Management Teams
  • Effective School-Community Collaboration
  • National and International Forces Affecting Public Education
  • Federal and State Policy Environments
  • Power, Influence, and Public Education
  • Effective Professional Learning for Educators
  • Teacher Evaluation
  • Teachers Unions and Education Reform
  • Peer Assistance and Review (PAR)
  • Historical Role of Teachers Unions
  • Strategic Compensation
  • Redesigning Our Work: Policies, Practices, Contracts, and Agreements

“These four areas were chosen by the NEA Foundation, well before I became involved, because each area has been a powerful part of the success of NEA Foundation work in its partner districts, and because there is a general consensus that leaders -- teachers, administrators and community partners -- could use help developing their skills and achieving mastery in each of these areas of work,” Bundy says. “Each course is structured so that participants are constantly getting exposure to ideas, tools and practices that they can test "in the field" simply by using them in their daily work.” 

Already, educators in districts across the country are putting the courses to use.

Sue Creekmore is an NEA Foundation instructional coach who works with groups of educators in school districts to maximize the professional learning opportunities offered by the courses. Creekmore works to best assist and support these labor management teams looking to strengthen the positive impact they can have on schools through collaboration and professional learning. 

“As an instructional coach, I work to provide supports and resources to assist teams in reaching the educational goal stated in the team action plan,” says Creekmore. “The courses are designed to broaden the horizons of the participants to include possibilities not previously considered while addressing in a user friendly style the changing needs within the education community of students, educators, and other stakeholders.” 

Since each district has its own unique challenges and issues, the courses allow for them to mix and match to suit their on-the-ground needs. One of Creekmore’s district teams, San Antonio Independent School District, has been utilizing content from the Peer Assistance and Review course. The goal is for educators to strengthen their district by working to better review, assist, and collaborate with their colleagues. 

“In San Antonio, the team is interested in developing a highly effective and successful Peer Assistance and Review (PAR) program,” says Creekmore. “The course is designed to guide the participants through the process by providing relevant research and trends as well as offering a detailed framework which can be individualized to meet the specific needs of that district.” 

The goal of the courses is to empower teachers to become leaders in their schools, while also finding ways to bring invested stakeholders to the table for collaborative change. As teachers look to become strong voices for their profession, it’s essential that they continue to receive support and training to turn good ideas into practice. 

“In successful schools with high levels of student growth and learning, many, many adults see themselves as leaders with responsibility for student success,” says Bundy. “Schools that do best for children and for educators are places of constant adult learning, teaming, shared responsibility for student outcomes, and creative, ongoing, never-ending learning and adaptation.”

Sample Video of Session 3: The Consulting Teacher's Role

First-year high school educator Carmen Tong talks about her experiences with her consulting teacher

Sample Video of Session 3: Consulting Teachers

Consulting teachers in Maryland public schools share their experiences with PAR

NEA Foundation Courses

Visit the NEA Foundation to register for courses and to learn more about how they can be used to strengthen schools and the profession.