Agents for Learning Toolkit: A Guide to Amplifying Teacher Voice and Stakeholder Engagement

Teachers want to work in systems that recognize them as professionals with valuable insights. Yet, almost any teacher you meet can tell you about the limited opportunity they’ve had providing input on policies, programs, or the implementation of any change that occurs in their school, district, state, or country. And, despite the number of teachers who are discouraged by, and in some cases disenfranchised by current systems, little attention is paid to the importance of teacher agency. Teacher expertise and insights are valuable resources untapped by most districts and states. State and district leaders who engage teachers in policy and decision making cultivate environments that promote growth and development for all.

Learning Forward and the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF) joined forces to address the untapped potential of teacher agency by publishing a report, Moving from Compliance to Agency: What Teachers Need to Make Professional Learning Work. To ensure the report would suggest ways in which teachers could use their voice, Learning Forward and NCTAF launched the Agents for Learning ESSA challenge to demonstrate the Learning Forward | National Commission on Teaching & America’s Future 1 Moving from Compliance to Agency What Teachers Need to Make Professional Learning Work Moving from Compliance to Agency importance of teacher agency in the implementation of the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The ESSA challenge gave teachers a substantive opportunity to exercise their agency by clarifying and sharing their views on federal and state policies and determining steps they would take to promote action on their input.

Throughout the experience of sponsoring and producing the challenge, we gained great insights into the value that teachers place on having leaders listen to them and involve them meaningfully. Involvement increases teachers’ understanding, ownership, and commitment to changes. When leaders and teachers work together in this way to advance improvement, they benefit everyone in the school community — they lead