NYC Teacher Career Pathways (TCP) is a strategic approach to teacher leadership in the country’s largest school district. TCP believes that by extending opportunities for educators to lead beyond their individual classroom, teachers can be powerful levers of change for school communities. The NYC DOE and UFT gave new form to this belief through the UFT-DOE teacher contract, which establishes differentiated teacher leader roles—Model Teacher, Peer Collaborative Teacher, and Master Teacher. TCP teacher leaders serve as change agents in their school communities by partnering with their colleagues and school leaders to identify and strengthen effective instructional and policy practices as well as build innovative learning initiatives aligned with school goals.
In 2013, the NYC Department of Education (DOE) and United Federation of Teachers (UFT) launched the Teacher Career Pathways (TCP) initiative with start-up funding from a federal Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) grant. TCP and UFT codified the idea of responsibility-based pay for teachers in NYC, abandoning performance-related pay programs, which had failed nationally (Kozlowski & Lauen, 2019; Chiang, et al., 2015). Educators apply for teacher leadership roles; should they qualify and secure a teacher leadership role in their schools, TLs spend at minimum 40% of the school day in the classroom with students and up to 60% of the time supporting their colleagues through various mechanisms for professional growth, such as focused 1:1 coaching, classroom inter-visitations, facilitating teacher teams, content- or strategy-based workshops, or representative advocacy. To complement the increase in responsibilities, teacher leaders receive a stipend as well as release time from classroom duties. Through this career lattice model, the NYCDOE and UFT hoped that teacher leadership would achieve a number of goals: diversify leadership roles in schools and distribute decision making; increase the instructional capacity of teachers and coherence of school-wide initiatives; and keep passionate, skilled educators in the classroom while offering career advancement via graduated responsibility, increased pay, and recognition.
Since the 2013-14 school year (SY 13-14), TCP has grown from 424 qualified TLs in 168 schools to over 2,000 qualified TLs, 1,426 of whom serving in those roles across 643 schools in SY 19-20. In addition, TCP has grown to four pathways:: Model Teacher (MoT), Peer Collaborative Teacher (PCT), Master Teacher (MaT), and Teacher Team Leader (TTL). In every iteration of the role, teacher leaders liaise between stakeholders, share and analyze effective instructional practices through peer coaching and classroom inter-visitations, and develop a supportive, non-evaluative professional learning environment in which colleagues can engage in student-centered inquiry.