It’s Really This Simple: School Districts That Empower Teachers Will See Student Success

There’s a lot of talk about how we can improve schools, from various turnaround strategies to school choice community partnership programs, but I think one of the most critical areas is the need for professional development in order to empower our teachers.

In talking to several of my colleagues who are still teaching in APS traditional schools, they love the guidance and leadership of our current Chief Schools Officer and Chief Academic Officer, Dr. Donyall Dickey. His leadership style brings me back to a quote about failing schools and school turnaround from former Interim APS Superintendent, Errol Davis:

We don’t have a failing school problem, we have a failing leadership problem!

This speaks to how empowering teachers—through effective leadership—can improve student achievement and change outcomes for turnaround schools. Dr. Dickey is doing just that for our teachers. His leadership elevates academic knowledge, best practices and team building techniques not just in our academic teams but even in how we continue these lessons for families and students at home.

His leadership style reaffirms, re-positions and re-energizes our district’s academic teams in ways that we haven’t seen in a good while. From my experience, this is what helps drive successful school turnaround strategies that create true change for academic achievement. It’s the intentional building and fostering of relationships with faculty, staff, students, families and stakeholders. It’s empowering teachers.

School resources, professional development, data of families and communities, support for classroom management and strong discipline plans all help the work of teachers.

As a former classroom teacher, I attribute the success that I witnessed in my students because of these things. It was the leadership of my then principal, Aaron Fernander, whose leadership provoked innovation throughout our school and helped us prepare and build successful scholars. Teachers and students perform better when they are able to “teach the children” as Mr. Fernander would say. That’s the job!

Leadership is there to fill in the gap so that teachers can focus on student needs and improving performance, practice and application.

Empowering teachers requires:

  • Ensuring they are prepared for the classroom.
  • Provided quality professional development.
  • Inspired to go above and beyond.
  • Supported and appreciated.
  • Allowed flexibility to create innovative lessons.
  • Encouraged to engage the entire family in the learning process.

School districts that are intentional about empowering teachers, families and communities find success in their school turnaround strategies. It starts with intentional leadership that drives change, innovates, builds effective partnerships with all stakeholders and shifts culture in an upward direction so that all children succeed.


Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.

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