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Collaborative Teacher Leadership: How Teachers Can Foster Equitable Schools

reviewed by Jane Nicolet - June 26, 2006

coverTitle: Collaborative Teacher Leadership: How Teachers Can Foster Equitable Schools
Author(s): Martin L. Krovetz and Gilberto Arriaza
Publisher: Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks
ISBN: 141290501X, Pages: 194, Year: 2006
Search for book at Amazon.com

The College of Education at San Jose State University (SJSU) and the Oak Grove and Campbell School Districts in California joined to create a university-school partnership. From a variety of discussion opportunities among stakeholders, the decision surfaced to focus all collaborative, professional learning opportunities on teacher leadership. A cohort of teachers from the two California districts was formed in the fall of 1997 and eventually identified as the Master’s in Collaborative Leadership program (MACL). This book reflects the fruit of their labor and is borne of the passion and experiences of its originators and the teacher leaders who collaborated within the partnership.


The text provides content and pedagogical concepts from both the teacher cohort and the authors. Its consistent theme centers on the belief that there is a very real connection between teacher collaborative leadership and enhanced student learning.

Basic assumptions guide the context of the work:

Every person can be a leader either formally or informally.

Adult resiliency must be fostered for student resiliency to be attained and sustained.

The improvement of the public school institution is the core of a strengthened democratic society.

Maximizing student learning must be the focus of all school leadership.

School and district leadership must purposely and coherently focus on student learning in a sustained effort.

Schools need culturally responsive teacher-leaders to do whatever is needed to provide a level learning field for all students, regardless of the inequities with which many enter.

Authentic stories of learning and leadership need to be told through the voices of those who lived the stories.


The organization of the text is clear and practical.  Following the format of Wiggins and McTighe’s (2000) Understanding by design, each chapter opens with “Enduring Understandings” and closes with “Essential Questions.” The additional “Reflective Questions” within each chapter encourage readers to ponder ideas from the many teacher-leader stories, while making their own personal and professional connections. Resource areas contain tools, research, and references to assist readers in thinking more deeply about the chapter’s focal points, in applying ideas, and even in beginning a new, related project of their own. A major strength of this text lies in the fact that its ideas and perspectives are grounded in the research and practice of those who have experimented with and successfully experienced the context of collaborative teacher leadership. The teacher voices are authentic, their insights are provocative, and their focus on student learning is unwavering.


The first chapter sets the tone of the work. The authors call for a new kind of leadership and use their partnership cohort to promote it. Collaborative leaders, learners, and teachers are designated as those who must coalesce to create leadership dense schools and districts. They are charged to do the important work of coherently reaching toward the same vision and improved student learning, while discovering that “…they are blurring boundaries and forging new connections between leading, learning and teaching. Their schools are leadership dense organizations” (Krovetz & Arriaza, 2006, p. 3 as cited in Lieberman & Miller, 1999, p.46).   

The lens Krovetz and Arriaza use for reshaping school culture is resiliency:  

When schools and school districts focus time and resources on building the teaching and leadership capacity of all adults, decisions and daily practice can be based on consistently asking if what is proposed and/or what is practiced will actually address . . . resiliency for the students and adults in the school. Collaborative Teacher Leadership is about fostering such schools (2006, p. 18).  

The authors are quick to point to the importance of a principal’s belief in capacity building through shared leadership as a direct correlative to the quality of student learning. From that leader’s perspective come the opportunities and resources for collaborative teacher leadership. In turn, authentic, legitimized teacher leadership powers ongoing, quality student learning.


The book contains seven chapters; each could be a stand-alone useful resource advocating collaboration, leadership, and equitable schools. “Distributed Leadership,” capacity building, advocacy and its impact on stakeholders within a culture of collaboration, and the intricacies of “followership” and leadership are all concepts the authors give voice to through teacher leader stories. Perusing the table of contents will give a reader all he or she needs to direct a specific query. As a practitioner, I find the chapter section called “Applying the Concepts in Your Workplace” particularly rich with its indicated reading, research, discussion, and activity options.


Chapters 4 and 5 may be of particular use to those beginning or nurturing school-university partnerships focusing on equity opportunity and student learning. Chapter 4, The Role of Inquiry, leads one to consider how to establish and then nurture collaborative action research within the public school realm. It offers excellent ideas for both novices and veterans of partnership models, reminding all how to establish protocols aiding collaborative communication, school-based, focused professional development, and research agendas. A cycle of pragmatic steps moving the inquiry process from individual initiative to organization involvement and dissemination is also provided. The authors and teacher leaders provide important reminders:  “This cycle is always anchored on the school’s focus and vision” (p. 86). And, the one we love to hate:  “Often those who resist have something important to tell us” (p. 89). Chapter 5, “Building Equity in Diverse Classrooms,” focuses on thought and action, characterizing schools as democratic learning places that perpetuate equity. Teachers as culturally responsive leaders who help to foster student resiliency in their schools is a common, recurrent theme. Teacher voices detail three issues:  distributing teachers’ work to target student needs, personalizing the teaching/learning process, and supporting a culture of critical conversations pinpointing student achievement and equity outcomes.


Krovetz and Arriaza want their audience to leave this work with five key ideas:

“Students learn best in schools where everyone is focused as a team on maximizing the learning of all students.”

“In this time of high-stakes testing and accountability, principals cannot lead this effort alone. Leadership needs to be redefined with building teacher leadership capacity at the center.”

This redefinition has to be skillful and purposeful.  Too often teachers accept the responsibility to lead without the institutional authority or professional skills, get frustrated by the lack of impact of their work, and go back to private practice in their classrooms.”

“Partnership carefully chosen can be a valuable component in helping to build these skills and habits of mind and heart.”

“You can lead and engage others to lead in this effort!”  (pp. 168-69).

The last bit of advice in this information-rich work is an excellent reminder of both the text’s messages and the passion of its many contributors:

If you read this book and say, “I get it!” and continue professional reading suggested in this book, start a study group at your school, use the teacher narratives and Reflective and Essential Questions to guide discussions, work to start or strengthen collaborative leadership at your school, distribute leadership by sharing responsibilities and roles among administrators and teachers, purposefully build leadership capacity on evidence-based decision making, and focus skillful, purposeful leadership and resources on maximizing the learning of all students, there is a good chance that your time and effort will result in improved student learning (p. 168).





Krovetz, M. L., & Arriaza, G. (2006). Collaborative teacher leadership:  How teachers can foster equitable schools. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Lieberman, A., & Miller, L. (1999). Teachers:  Transforming their work and their world. New York: Teachers College Press and Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Wiggins, G., & McTighe, J (2000) Understanding by design. New York: Prentice Hall.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: June 26, 2006
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 12553, Date Accessed: 1/28/2022 11:17:23 AM

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About the Author
  • Jane Nicolet
    Colorado State University
    E-mail Author
    JANE NICOLET is a clinical faculty member in the School of Education at Colorado State University. Ms. Nicolet has worked as a public school educator and in university-based teacher training both in Colorado and Illinois. Her areas of study focus on equity of opportunity, student engagement, and brain-friendly classrooms to improve student learning. She consults in the area of learning and communication styles for teachers and other professional leaders. Presently, she is developing a new Professional Development School, partnering Colorado State University with Loveland High School in Colorado. Her 2006 publication is Conversation – A Necessary Step In Understanding Diversity in Landsman, J., & Lewis, C. W. (Eds.), White Teachers/Diverse Classrooms (pp. 203 - 218). Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.
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