Central Office Leaders

"Encouraging and Supporting Principals and Teacher Leaders."

Central Office Leaders
Central Office Leaders

For Central Office Leaders


The degree to which teacher leadership thrives in schools is ultimately a reflection of the leadership style of district leaders. When district leaders subscribe to a top-down “law and order” superhero leadership style (Wheatley, 2010) that elevates the leader as the primary and best source of good ideas and “right” decisions, that leadership style is mirrored by principals to teachers (and by teachers to students). A shift to teacher leadership is more fundamental than simply giving teachers responsibility for the bus duty schedule. It goes to underlying levels of trust and belief in the untapped capacity of ordinary people to do extraordinary things. When district leaders perpetuate a style of leadership that consolidates decision making and authority at the top, it sends a message that other than formal leaders, no one has the responsibility to innovate, look for better ways to achieve goals, or share accountability for outcomes.

Are you that district leader? Do you believe your principals need to be fixed? Do you believe your teachers are not very strong or simply need guidance in cultivating and developing sustained teacher leadership within their building(s)?

Are you ready to consider an alternative? Is it possible that you or your principals unknowingly create conditions that stamp out teacher agency, imagination, and passion for creating vibrant learning experiences for every student? What is your responsibility to create a working environment where your teaching force is liberated and their motivations are met with optimism, appreciation, and support from you and your principals to draw it out in its highest form?

Research points to a number of important responsibilities of central office leaders with regard to supporting teacher leadership as a pathway to school improvement. Among them are: creating learning-focused partnerships with principals; teaching principals how to more effectively deploy teacher leaders to achieve deep learning opportunities for every child; and redesigning central office structures to support principal growth (Honig, 2013; Honig & Rainey, 2015).

This tool kit provides guidance to help district leaders create cultures and conditions in which teacher leadership will thrive. Included are guidance and resources for:

  • Leading a shift in culture, including a district-wide embrace of risk-taking;

  • Memorializing the priority of teacher leadership in the district strategic plan;

  • Defining and adopting widely shared expectations in a teacher leader competency model;

  • Building multi-way communication pathways to facilitate conversation about shifts to teacher leadership and invite feedback from teacher leaders;

  • Providing high quality professional learning support not only for teacher leaders, but also for the school and district leaders - including the superintendent - to develop the knowledge, skills and structures to nurture a teacher leadership culture.

Also included are links to resources, as well as a set of talking points you may find helpful when discussing teacher leadership with policy makers. To read more, download the Central Office Toolkit.