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.

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


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


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 the Institute's 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

Aurora, CO (2014)


  • Enrollment: 37,389
  • Student Poverty: 71%
  • Diversity: 82.2%
    • Black: 17.9%
    • Hispanic: 54.7%
    • Asian: 4.6%
    • Other: 5.0%

State laws regarding teacher evaluation and tenure in Colorado are changing, and the union and administrative leaders are committed to working together to assure that educators have the resources and supports they need to be rated effective. Their goal over the next two years in the Institute is to design a professional development program that will explicitly address the needs of veteran teachers who find themselves at risk of losing tenure. They will begin by gathering information from teachers to learn about what would be most helpful with them. They will be exploring different opportunities for fellow educators to provide the supports, including a possible Peer Assistance and Review Program.

Berkshire Hills, MA (2014)


  • Enrollment: 1,376
  • Student Poverty: 23.2%
  • Diversity: 9.5%
    • Black: 1.5%
    • Hispanic: 5.0%
    • Asian: 0.7%
    • Other: 2.3%

In recent years union leaders and district administrators in Berkshire Hills Regional School District have been working at a system level to create a framework for collaboration designed to enhance student learning. They have achieved a culture of shared responsibility and accountability at the system level, which has resulted in better educational policy. As a participant in the Institute, they are focused on creating pathways to get the collaborative culture and processes into local schools, to assure that these best practices are benefitting the instructional program—and ultimately—the students.

Cedar Rapids, IA (2014)


  • Enrollment: 16,609
  • Student Poverty: 46.5%
  • Diversity: 27.2%
    • Black: 13.9%
    • Hispanic: 5.6%
    • Asian: 1.9%
    • Other: 5.8%

In 2013, the union and administrative leaders jointly developed a framework for leadership that defines new standards for responsibilities, decision-making roles, acknowledgement, and accountability for “teacher leaders.” They now want to take that design into the development and implementation stages. While a participant in the Institute they will be focused on identifying the foundations that must be laid to get buy-in from stakeholders, the structures that need to be put in place to support these new responsibilities and to develop new teacher leaders. They are committed to a partnership in the implementation that will model the kind of collaboration needed to better support student learning.

Fall River, MA (2014)


  • Enrollment: 10,319
  • Student Poverty: 78.3%
  • Diversity: 38.7%
    • Black: 7.2%
    • Hispanic: 21.1%
    • Asian: 4.4%
    • Other: 6.0%

Providing struggling schools with the infrastructure and resources needed to increase student learning has been the focus of joint commitment and collaboration between the union and administrative leaders in recent years. However, what they have learned in their analysis of these efforts is that simply making a few changes in expectations, curriculum, and instructional practice does not lead to sustainable improvement. They have decided to try a more systemic approach, in which all of the members of a school will be engaged in the co-construction of new practices based on the specific needs of the individual school, its students, and staff. Over the next two years they will be working with their Institute coach, and a whole local school staff to design an “innovation school” in which all staff are empowered and accountable for student learning.

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 help students become more engaged learners by learning how to reflect on their work and participate in “learning conversations.” They have jointly developed job-embedded professional development for educators to provide them with the knowledge and skills to facilitate this high level learning practice. After only one year, they are seeing differences because of implementation of the practice and the ownership that students are taking for their own work. As the result of this successful collaborative work, the West Springfield Education Association and West Springfield Public Schools included collaborative language in their collective bargaining agreement to assure that it can transition through changes in leadership.


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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.

San Antonio, TX (2013)


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

The state of Texas is implementing a new evaluation program and the San Antonio Alliance and San Antonio Independent School District are working together to assure that the implementation of the standards and processes ultimately benefit 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 and implement a Peer Assistance and Review Program for teachers and the professional development needed to achieve those standards. 

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Knowledge Partners

After two years participating in the Institute, union-district teams contribute to our community of practice as Knowledge Partners. As such they continue to receive information about the work of the Institute teams and the Foundation; they provide guidance to other teams working on similar issues, and contribute to our understanding of sustainability. Below are summaries of these teams’ accomplishments.


Designed the structures, processes, and training for school-based collaborative teams with a focus on developing the implementation strategy for the Colorado Academic Standards. 


Established collaborative processes and designated time for employee-led professional development activities. 


Created a 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 strengthen the profession. 

Designed a strategic compensation program that will potentially be developed and implemented at a later date.

Analyzed the results of and expanded START (Successful Teachers Assisting Rising Teachers) program ─ a peer assistance and review process ─ from novice teachers to include struggling teachers and professional services teachers who receive unsatisfactory evaluations.

Worked to build greater understanding among staff and the community of the needs of the changing student demographic.

In support of the district’s aim to raise student achievement, the Chalkboard Project CLASS Design Team facilitated a pilot focused on a new professional growth and evaluation system.

Designed and implemented a Peer Assistance and Review program.

Designed and implemented professional development for both teachers and administrators around a new teacher evaluation system.

Created and implemented a Professional Growth System including teacher evaluation using the Charlotte Danielson Framework for Teaching,  the development of Student Growth targets and Professional Goal Setting. 

Researched and designed a comprehensive professional growth and learning system for teachers.

Developed a performance-based evaluation system for educators and administrators, which included multiple measures of educator effectiveness (based on the Danielson Framework) and student growth and achievement. 

Developed a graduate certificate program, Equity and Excellence in Education, in partnership with McDaniel College.

Developed and strengthened a solid and mutually respectful foundation for negotiating a new educator evaluation system.

Enhanced school-community partnerships, designed to provide supports for students, especially those at-risk. 







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