Institute for Innovation in Teaching & Learning

The NEA Foundation Institute for Innovation in Teaching and Learning supports local unions and school district leaders’ collaborative efforts to improve education by focusing on a single issue and providing a dedicated coach, connecting leaders to a larger community of practice, and sharing online curriculum on issues of labor-management, and how to lead change and reform. The Institute is comprised of labor-management teams from across the country.  Each has identified issues most critical to their students and has made a commitment to work together toward a common goal: to improve the quality of education for their students.

  • Onsite technical assistance and coaching at the Institute’s expense on plan design, implementation and progress monitoring and leadership and organizational development.


  • Facilitation at network gatherings and web-based interaction, including webinars to increase organizing capacity around teaching and learning issues. 


Enroll in Online Courses


  • Online resources and courses are designed to build the capacity of union and district leaders in an effort to promote labor-management collaboration as a tool for systems change. The NEA Foundation Institute teams are a primary audience; the tools are intended to assist them in their collaborative work.


  • The Institute convenes labor-management teams at our expense to enhance learning among the cohort and improve action planning and focus on teaching and learning issues via both face-to-face and virtual meetings.


Institute for Innovation in Teaching & Learning Sites

The Institute for Innovation in Teaching & Learning provides the following services to participants:

West Springfield, MA (2013)


  • Enrollment: 3,868
  • Student Poverty: 48.9%
  • Diversity: 25.2%
    • Black: 3.5%
    • Hispanic: 14.6%
    • Other: 7.1%


The West Springfield Education Association and West Springfield Public Schools are working collaboratively to enhance their implementation of the Common Core State Standards by creating a knowledge base for 21st Century Learning Skills for staff and students. The joint team has set up structures that provide for on-going opportunities. They have begun to research needed instructional and content-based skills, intending to create job-embedded professional learning opportunities for school staff on the instructional practices that will enable students to achieve these high level learning standards.


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Clark County, NV (2013)


  • Enrollment: 311, 429
  • Student Poverty: 59.6%
  • Diversity: 70.4%
    • Black: 12.2%
    • Hispanic: 43.6%
    • Other: 14.6%


The Clark County Education Association and Clark County School District are focused on developing strategic professional development activities, including a Peer Assistance and Review Program. They are also developing instructional standards, with indicators so that teachers have the tools they need to be more reflective. In addition, this team’s work has a “meta-reflective” perspective in which they are intentionally identifying the practices and structures that will provide them with the capacity to collaborate on many other aspects of the instructional program.


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San Antonio, TX (2013)


  • Enrollment: 54,274
  • Student Poverty: 92.8%
  • Diversity: 98.2%
    • Black: 6.3%
    • Hispanic: 91.3%
    • Other: 0.6%


The San Antonio Alliance and San Antonio Independent School District have identified a significant gap for literacy skills among their students.  They have begun with the premise that good teaching practices and clear expectations are essential to addressing this issue.  They are working together to design the instructional standards for teachers and the professional development needed to achieve those standards.  They will be looking specifically for changes in instruction and student outcomes for students in elementary grades in response to collaborative work on creating change.


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Durango, CO (2013)


  • Enrollment: 4,500
  • Student Poverty: 35%
  • Diversity: 27%
    • Black: 1%
    • Hispanic: 18%
    • Other: 8%


The Durango Education Association and Durango School District, 9-R believe that effective leadership throughout the system is essential to transforming practice.  To achieve that goal, they have included representatives of all groups on their team to design an implementation strategy for the Colorado Academic Standards and Common Formative and District Assessments.  This strategy will include engagement of all staff members to monitor student mastery and learning, provide instructional feedback to students and professional feedback to each other.


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St. John, LA (2013)


  • Enrollment: 6,269
  • Student Poverty: 88%
  • Diversity: 85.4%
    • Black: 80.1%
    • Hispanic: 4.7%
    • Other: 0.6%


The St. John Association of Educators and St John’s the Baptist Parish Public Schools are committed to the premise that labor-management collaboration is what is needed to make transformational change in student learning. They are now building a collaborative way of working.  They are doing this as they develop new opportunities for professional development, including job-embedded time for teachers to collaborate.


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San Juan, CA (2012)


  • Enrollment: 47,116
  • Student Poverty: 44.9%
  • Diversity: 36%
    • Black: 7.7%
    • Hispanic: 18.5%
    • Other: 9.6%

The San Juan Teachers Association and San Juan Unified School District are interested in exploring the creation of career ladders/lattices for practitioners with the purpose of encouraging and compensating excellent teachers to remain in (or close to) the classroom while allowing them to take on additional leadership roles that serve to strength the profession.  Their continued goal is to build internal capacity through shared leadership.

Successes from the past school year include:

  • A co-created process to staff the most challenging high school with people who want to be there (and jointly addressed issues that developed from that school site last school year).
  • The completion of a second year of the joint student assessment trainings.
  • The creation and launch of the joint Budget Review Committee

During the current school year, the collaborative team hopes to further develop the joint budget review process, continue their work around student assessment with a new implementation focus, and create innovative evaluation pilots that will allow educators to focus on continued learning and improvement.


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Jefferson County, CO (2012)


  • Enrollment:  84,000
  • Student Poverty:  31%
  • Diversity:  31.61%
    • Black:  1.16%
    • Hispanic:  23.29%
    • Other:  7.15%

The Jefferson County team is working to reflect on their current compensation model, investigate alternative models, and make recommendations to the Board of Education.  There is interest in learning if there is a compensation model which will assure that professional skills are always applied to the best advantage of all students.  This may include a career ladder which allows for successful educators to continue to work with students, but also support others in professional development.

In each of the past two years, the JCEA and the District have participated in an employee Summit to collaboratively negotiate $39M in reductions for 2011-2012 and $20M in reductions for 2012-2013. The Summit included representatives from each of the employee associations, building administration, central leadership, and the Board of Education. The process was facilitated by federal mediator from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. This is considered a model for creative collaboration and a reflection of the commitment to collaboration by all of the participants.  

The primary goal for school year 2012-2013 is student achievement and educational opportunity for every student in the District. The District is pursuing a mill levy override and bond election in November in order to avoid $43M in budget cuts in 2013-14 that would result in the loss of 600 jobs and many programs valued by our community and students.

Escambia, FL (2012)


  • Enrollment:  41,000
  • Student Poverty:  73%
  • Diversity:  47.4%
    • Black:  36.3%
    • Hispanic:  3.1%
    • Other:  8%

The Escambia Education Association and the school district have recently completed their first year in a collaborative partnership.  Two years prior to 2011-12, the collaborative team worked to create a Model of Excellence of “few but focused” initiatives for the district that were created from multiple teacher and employee focus groups.  From this effort grew the START Program (Successful Teachers Assisting Rising Teachers), which is a peer assistance and review (peer evaluators) process of new teacher induction for all first year teachers.  In addition, the union and district worked together in an environment of trust and transparency to create a new teacher evaluation system based on the Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching.  Currently, the team is in discussion to expand the START peer assistance and review process to include both struggling teachers as recommended by principals as well as those professional services (formerly tenured) teachers receiving unsatisfactory evaluations.

121 novice teachers were served in the START program and the new teacher evaluation system was implemented successfully.  The goal was to have an honest evaluation system tied to teacher growth and one for which teachers and evaluators shared responsibility.  Teacher leaders (two from each school - one selected by the principal and one selected by the union) served as lead trainers for the new teacher evaluation and growth system, and these teacher leaders received the same training as evaluators.  In addition, video-captured lessons were successfully used for the purpose of self-reflection and growth for novice teachers.

During the 2012-2013 school year, the team plans to expand the START program to serve  (coach/mentor/evaluate) all professional services teachers receiving unsatisfactory evaluation, as well as assist principals with coaching and mentoring other struggling teachers.

Fayette County, KY (2012)


  • Enrollment: 40,023
  • Student Poverty: 48.7%
  • Diversity: 42.4%
    • Black: 22.9%
    • Hispanic: 12%
    • Other: 7.5%   

The Fayette County Education Association’s (FCEA) and Fayette County Public Schools will work collaboratively to support employees in embracing and implementing the concepts of the Superior Customer Service Program that exhibits value and respect.

The Superior Customer Service Program currently includes 16 participating schools with four more schools to be trained this fall (20/56 schools). These schools have trained their staff, including teachers, instructional assistants, clerical, custodial, food service, and transportation in providing Superior Customer Service in order to create a positive school climate focused on value and respect for students, families, community members and each other. In addition, 14 district departments are participating in the program in order to provide exemplary services and resources to the schools.

The goals for the upcoming school year not only include having more schools and departments participate in the Superior Customer Service Program, but also for more teachers and staff to recognize the value of the program and how it truly supports the community and student achievement. 


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Oregon City, OR (2012)


  • Enrollment:  8,071
  • Student Poverty: 39%
  • Diversity:  18.5%
    • Black:  0.9%
    • Hispanic:  9.4%
    • Other: 8.2%

Oregon City School District and Oregon City Education Association formed a collaborative team in 2009 to empower educators and raise student achievement as a part of the CLASS (Creative Leadership Achieves Student Success) Project, sponsored by Chalkboard, a consortium of Oregon philanthropic foundations. The project is built around four components linked to effective teaching: expanded career paths, effective performance evaluations, relevant professional development and new compensation models.

The CLASS Design Team successfully designed and launched a differentiated professional growth and evaluation system for licensed and administrative staff based upon nationally calibrated standards of professional practice. The pilot has been extended for 2012-13.

For the 2012-2013 school year, the Oregon City School Board has identified the following district priorities

  1. Student Achievement: Support proven strategies to increase student achievement for all students.
  2. Communications: Increase communication and community engagement
  3. Stewardship of Resources: Ensure fiscal responsibility and stability
  4. Strategic Priorities: Establish new long-term objectives in an Achievement Compact

In support of the district’s aim to raise student achievement, the CLASS Design Team will facilitate the second-year pilot of a new professional growth and evaluation system, while designing additional elements to meet the requirements of new state legislation. In addition, the team will oversee the use of new state grant funds to implement new opportunities for teacher-leaders, professional development and mentoring.

Elgin, IL (2010)


  • Enrollment:  40,744
  • Student Poverty:  52%
  • Diversity:  66.7%
    • Black:  6.7%
    • Hispanic: 49%
    • Other:  11%   

The work in Elgin began by identifying projects that could increase teacher effectiveness.  The district-union collaborative team are in the first stage, year one, of a Peer Assistance and Review program. An oversight group has been created to monitor and implement the plan. It is anticipated that this initiative, which adds to an impressive portfolio/history of union-district led successes in School District U-46 (including our Teacher Appraisal Program and Teacher Mentoring Program), will expand the ability to work together to ensure teaching and learning successes in the district.

A lengthy contract negotiation has been completed that has put in place a Transformation Task Force to examine the current school day with the intention of making recommendations for change. The team has partnered with NEA Breakfast in the classroom and will implement those supports this school year.

Responding to teachers’ concerns about too much instructional time being lost to assessment, the district conducted an Assessment Audit which included participation from School Improvement Teams.  It will result in less assessment at the elementary schools this coming year and will establish an ongoing process for feedback and revision to the district’s assessment landscape.

Both the union and the district have a shared goal of making U-46 a model public school system in which college and career readiness for all students is achieved and achievement gaps are eliminated.  The Administrative staff has prepared a District Improvement plan that directs the focus of the major initiatives. This along with legislative changes means much of the focus will continue to be how best to identify student growth and what are the most effect means to support continued growth for all students.


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Peoria, IL (2010)


  • Enrollment:  14,135
  • Student Poverty:  74.9%
  • Diversity:  74.2%
    • Black:  56.4%
    • Hispanic:  7.8%
    • Other:  10%   

The Peoria Federation of Teachers and Peoria School District are currently in year two of rolling out their new Teacher Evaluation Model.  After successful implementation at four schools, the model was implemented across 25 other buildings in the district for the 2012-13 school year.

Successful implementation of the new Teacher Evaluation Model across four Phase I schools occurred during the past school year.  These schools included all of the district high schools and one middle school.  Teachers and administrators in participating schools provided feedback that allowed modification to the Evaluation Model for the 2012-2013 school year.

The two primary goals for the 2012-13 school year include successful implementation of the Teacher Performance Model in all 29 schools, and building a student growth component for the teacher evaluation model that can seamlessly be integrated into the model to create a full Evaluation Model for all the teachers in Peoria.

Springfield, IL (2010)


  • Enrollment: 14,561
  • Student Poverty: 67.2%
  • Diversity: 50.5%
    • Black: 38.1%
    • Hispanic: 2.3%
    • Other: 10.1%   

Springfield has been engaged in creating and implementing a Professional Growth System including teacher evaluation using the Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching, Peer Assistance and Review, Student Growth and Professional Goal Setting.  They are in year two of the phase in process with 16 schools implementing the teacher evaluation and professional goal setting components.  One SIG school is implementing the teacher evaluation, professional goal setting and student growth components.
This past year, Phase 1 of the teacher evaluation system was successfully implemented.  Feedback from teachers, evaluators and human resources was overwhelmingly favorable.  There has also been significant progress on planning for the PAR program.

A major focus for the school year 2012-2013 will be completing the planning process for student growth.  Student growth will be implemented district wide during the 2013-14 school year.  Choosing and training the PAR panel and consulting teachers will also help Springfield stay on target for a 2013-2014 school year implementation.

Jefferson County, KY (2010)


  • Enrollment:  100,000+
  • Student Poverty:  60%+
  • Diversity:  49.2%
    • Black:  36.3%
    • Hispanic:  5.4%
    • Other:  7.5%   

The Jefferson County Education Association and Jefferson County Public Schools have been considering and researching the design of a comprehensive professional growth and learning system for teachers. Some of the considerations are standards that would meet the state requirements and professional development supports, such as a Peer Assistance and Review program.

Research has included learning about the Charlotte Danielson framework for assessing teacher performance, visiting Kenton County, KY to observe where information from observations and evaluations was used to guide professional development, and visiting Montgomery County, MD to observe their Peer Assistance and Review Program.  The collaborative team has begun to identify the components of a comprehensive system which will best support the growth of the teachers in the district.

The first goal of the 2012-2013 school year will be to establish how best to act on the shared vision for student learning through teacher learning and development.   From there, the team will work to design and develop the framework for a professional growth and learning system that can be implemented in school year 2013—2014.

Portland, ME (2010)


  • Enrollment: 7,000
  • Student Poverty: 54%
  • Diversity: 38.1%
    • Black: 22.5%
    • Hispanic: 5.5%
    • Other: 10.2%   

The Portland Education Association and Portland Public Schools have been working collaboratively to develop a performance-based evaluation system for educators and administrators.  These systems include multiple measures of educator effectiveness (based on the Danielson Framework) and student growth and achievement.  We are also working on incorporating peer evaluation and instructional support into the systems. 

To date, a guidebook and toolkit to detail evaluation of educator practice has been drafted, an initial training for evaluators (provided by the Danielson Group) has been delivered, and a Design Team facilitated by the Consortium for Educational Change has been implemented.  The work of defining measures of student growth and achievement has begun and is based on the work on TIF districts in Maine.  The leadership of the association and the district visited almost all schools to frame the evaluation system work. 

In school year 2012-2013, the goals of the collaborative team are to pilot the system in a small number of schools, build out the support for educators who are in need of support through the evaluation system, and formalize agreements around peer evaluation and support.

Montgomery County, MD (2010)


  • Enrollment: 146,497
  • Student Poverty: 32.3%
  • Diversity: 66.3%
    • Black: 21.2%
    • Hispanic: 26%
    • Other: 19%


A Graduate Certificate program has been developed in partnership with MCPS and McDaniel College on Equity and Excellence in Education. The program includes five courses over a 1.5 year period, is conducted at the MCEA Center, and co-taught by MCEA members and McDaniel faculty. The first cohort in the program started in Fall of 2011 and will complete the program in December. A new cohort will begin in early 2013.

The first cohort of the Equity and Excellence in Education program includes 23 members, which met our expectations. The members of the cohort have enhanced their knowledge of equitable classroom practices and cultural competencies, and have been applying their knowledge in the classroom. In addition, the cohort has developed a sense of community and made a commitment to continuing this work, both jointly and individually, once they complete the certificate. While the details remain to be determined, the cohort is clear that a part of it will be to spread the equitable practices to colleagues.

The first cohort will successfully complete the program and begin the work of how to be ‘Equity Warriors’ in MCPS and beyond during school year 2012-2013. A second cohort will begin and the Montgomery County team hope to expand the number of participants. The steering committee will also begin work on the design and subsequent implementation of a second certificate in Teacher Leadership, which would offer a full Master’s program in Equity and Leadership.


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Cambridge, MA (2010)


  • Enrollment:  6,052
  • Student Poverty:  48.4%
  • Diversity: 61.5%
    • Black:31.4%
    • Hispanic: 13.5%
    • Other: 16.6%

The Cambridge Educators Association (CEA) and district management worked collaboratively last year to review the feasibility of implementing a PAR program and participated in NEA Foundation sessions during the last school year.

The relationships developed and strengthened by NEA Foundation participation helped in laying a solid and mutually respectful foundation for negotiating a new educator evaluation system to be implemented in the 2012-13 school year.

The district’s primary goal for the 2012-13 school year is to work toward academic excellence and social justice for ALL students. An additional priority goal is the successful implementation of the new educator evaluation system.

Fon du Lac, WI (2010)


  • Enrollment:  7,448
  • Student Poverty:  43.1%
  • Diversity:  20%
    • Black:  4.3%
    • Hispanic:  9.7%
    • Other:  6%

The Fond du Lac District NEA Foundation Team is focused on enhancing school-community partnerships which are designed to provide supports for students, especially those at-risk.  The hope is ultimately that the work of the schools and the community will be singularly focused on helping students not only be successful in school, but that they set life goals for themselves at an early age and know that there are adults who can help them reach those goals.
Through this work, the Fond du Lac team has leveraged funding from the NEA External Partnership and Advocacy Department to provide for meetings between the team, parent groups and community groups.  A cohort of partners presented to fifth grade students on creating goals for themselves.  A partnership with the local Boys and Girls Club to provide after-school activities and academic support in a coordinated way has also been initiated.

Goals for the 2012-2013 school year include:

  • Establishing and implementing a “Parent Connection Campaign”
  • Continuing to network with the Boy’s and Girl’s Club to share best practices and address the needs of students, parents and guardians. 
  • Collaborating with the NEA to learn more about how the Priority Schools Campaign/Family-School-Community Partnerships 2.0 can strengthen our work.
  • Looking for opportunities to work with other districts who have similar goals and initiatives to learn from and share with them.






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