AMES–Ames Community School District was among the school districts selected in December to launch local teacher leadership plans through Iowa’s Teacher Leadership and Compensation System.

Associate Superintendent Mandy Ross said staff in Ames is cheering the Iowa Department of Education’s announcement.

“Ames has been ahead of the state’s education reform in providing instruction that meets students’ individual needs and in creating ways for teachers to collaborate,” Ross said. “This grant gives us more resources and opportunities to support taking our vision and goals to the next level.”

In its press release, the Iowa Department of Education described the Teacher Leadership and Compensation System as a “centerpiece of the state’s landmark education reform package passed by the Legislature in 2013,” designed to tap into the expertise of top teachers to improve classroom instruction, raise student achievement, attract and retain more effective teachers by enhancing career opportunities, and pay stipends for taking on extra responsibilities.

Ross said besides articulating their vision and goals for the teacher leadership and compensation plan, districts’ applications were required to address “must-haves,” such as setting a rigorous selection process for leadership roles and a minimum teacher salary of $33,500, and improving entry into the profession through efforts that include mentoring new teachers.

“The grant will allow Ames to expand some existing positions, such as instructional coaches and teachers on special assignment,” Ross said. “The additional staff in these roles will increase our teachers’ access to job-embedded professional development, which has direct impact on quality instruction for students in our schools.”

The added teachers on special assignment will expedite updates to district curriculum in content areas that don’t always get the focus they need or deserve, she said.

“For example, art, music, and PE are integral parts of our education program, but don’t get attention from the state and federal governments like math and reading do,” Ross said.

The district will receive $1.3 million dollars for its teacher leadership plan, Ross said. Statewide, the state will spend nearly $50 million for the teacher leadership system in fiscal year 2015, an amount expected to reach about $150 million annually by fiscal year 2017.

The Iowa Department of Education press release said 170 state school districts serving a mix of urban, suburban and rural communities applied to join the teacher leadership system in the second round. Of those, 125 districts were chosen to put in place local plans—74 of them in the 2015-16 school year and another 51 in 2016-17.