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How School District Leaders Can Support Teachers and Drive Change

Reimagining the teaching job requires challenging core assumptions about how we organize people, time, and money in American public schools. 

This means replacing the traditional siloed, one-size-fits-all teaching model with a collaborative approach centered on expert-led educator teams that share the work of planning, teaching, and supporting students. 

To catalyze and sustain change, we must redesign the underlying economic structures of the teaching job, with new “out-of-the-box” staffing plans, redistributed schedules, competitive compensation models, and adjusted conceptions of when and how learning occurs.

Our new publication, "Breaking the Mold Without Breaking the Bank: A Guide to Transforming the Teaching Job," shows how out-of-the-box strategies and investments make it possible for leaders to redesign the teaching profession. 




Improving Teacher Experiences and Creating Lasting Change

Catalytic entry points for reimagining the teaching job are cohesive strategies that are actionable in the near-term and stimulate meaningful long-term change up and down the system. Catalytic entry points reflect “do now” actions in pursuit of a long-term, “build toward” vision for systemic change. In this way, out-of-the-box innovations that change underlying cost structures become the new status quo—meaningfully improving student and educator experiences and outcomes. 

The following examples are designed to make the concept of “catalytic entry points” concrete and show how redesign is truly possible, no matter the district context. These examples show a variety of ways that district leaders can fundamentally restructure teaching roles and schedules, without squandering precious resources on approaches that offer only short-term benefits. Because district needs and priorities differ, the most appropriate entry point will vary from one community to the next. Leaders can use these five examples to decide what decisions might be right for their specific context. 

Here's how school district leaders can:


Diversify Teaching: Pervasive teacher turnover disrupts student learning and signals underlying issues with the teaching job. Here’s how leaders can establish a budget-neutral residency program to diversify and expand the incoming teaching force.

Learn How to Diversify & Expand the Incoming Workforce

Develop and Retain Rookie Teachers: When rookie teachers lack job-embedded development opportunities, they leave their starting district—or the profession altogether—at higher rates. Read how leaders can reconfigure teaming structures to help support and retain new educators.

Learn how to Develop & Retain Rookie Teachers

Make the Core Job Sustainable: Many of today’s teachers remain isolated, overburdened, and burnt out. Learn how leaders can strategically redistribute resources to forge a more sustainable teaching role.

Learn How to Improve the Core Job

Drive Instructional Improvement: Professional learning and collaboration are the cornerstones of high-quality instruction. Here’s how leaders can foster collaborative development to enable teachers to provide more rigorous, personalized instruction.

Learn how to Drive Instructional Improvement

Strengthen Compensation Models: Predictable, lockstep pay increases don’t allow districts to keep pace with modern salaries for service-based professions. Read how these four districts developed creative compensation models to ensure their teachers earned competitive wages.

Learn how to Strengthen Compensation Models

Prioritizing Areas of Focus to Support Teachers

Reimagining the teaching job is a bold pursuit, but leaders can take meaningful steps with a “Do Now, Build Toward” approach that lays the foundation for sustainable change that benefits all students and teachers.

Through thoughtful discussion in four key areas, district leaders can identify the optimal catalytic entry point for reimagining the teaching job in their system. Below is a downloadable resource to support the dialogue around identifying strengths (#2) and enabling conditions (#3). 

Expand the drawers to learn more about each step of this approach.

The right catalytic entry point for your system will address felt needs now while also laying the groundwork for significant and lasting change in the teaching job. To prioritize, consider:  

  • What is the most critical issue you need to address to improve the teaching job in your district?
  • What are the root causes of this challenge?
  • Which aspects of this challenge emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic? Which were core to how teaching is structured in your system even before the pandemic?

Successful change efforts can build from an existing platform of success. Even where teacher turnover is unsustainably high, the large majority of teachers return to the job each year—often with joy and a high bar for excellence. To identify your current strengths, consider: 

  • What are the most compelling aspects of the value proposition for teaching in your district? In your highest-need schools? 
  • What is happening differently in schools where teachers are most engaged and most successful in their work? 
  • What conditions and practices are contributing to these pockets of strength? 
  • How could the district expand or deepen these strategies?

“Enabling conditions” are the policies and context that make bold, positive change possible. Many of the policies and constraints that we take for granted today are unintended consequences of well-intentioned strategies. For instance, the desire to minimize potential for bias in staff assignments and responsibilities has, in many systems, led to rigid assignments and role definitions that make it difficult for teachers to work collaboratively and limit schools' ability to provide integrated supports for students.

To identify the areas where enabling conditions for change already exist—even if no one has fully capitalized on them yet—consider:

  • In which parts of the teaching job framework do optimal conditions for change already exist?  
  • How could the district better leverage these conditions to strengthen the value proposition for educators? 
  • In which areas could changes in state policy or labor agreements create new opportunities to reimagine the teaching job? 

Armed with the knowledge of critical needs, existing strengths, and enabling conditions for change, leaders can identify the catalytic entry point that offers the greatest potential for reimagining the teaching job. As you review the options, consider: 

  • Which entry points would best address a pressing need in your system? 
  • Which allow you to build upon existing strengths, either system-wide or in a subset of schools? 
  • Which take advantage of enabling conditions for change—especially those that exist but have not yet been fully leveraged to catalyze improvements in the teaching job? 
  • What other factors do you and your team need to consider to reimagine the teaching job in your system? For example, consider the timeline for collective bargaining; current distribution of student need and teacher expertise; and school leader resource flexibility and capacity to drive change.

Below, you’ll find a DIY assessment tool with guiding questions to help district teams identify the strengths of their value proposition for teachers (#2 above) and clarify which enabling conditions that are and are not in place to support bold improvements to the teaching job (#3 above).  

With this resource, district teams can be better equipped to establish priority focus areas that reimagine the teaching job and create a springboard for broader and deeper shifts over time. 




Retaining Principals to Reduce Teacher Turnover

Principals are critical to their school systems, and turnover at this level can significantly impact teacher retention rates. When principals get effective support from their central office, they’re more likely to stay—stabilizing teacher turnover rates and improving student outcomes and experiences. District leaders can retain principals and reduce teacher turnover by providing principals with these four key supports.

Read more on supporting and retaining principals 


More on the Teaching Job








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