South Carolina's Collective Leadership Initiative (CLI) supports schools to collectively redesign strategies needed to meet the needs of all students. Educators in CLI schools found that skills developed through CLI proved valuable as they addressed a number of instructional challenges resulting from the pandemic.

The challenge

As the pandemic hit, CTQ had already been working with the South Carolina Department of Education’s Office of Educator Effectiveness and Leadership Development (OEELD) to support the development and implementation of the Collective Leadership Initiative (CLI) in 24 schools. Everyone knew that this was complicated work even in the best of times. Yet, schools reported that the implementation of collective leadership through CLI allowed their schools to come together, leverage the skills of all educators, and effectively address the challenges related to the sudden shift to online learning.

Collective leadership. Collective impact.

Our Collective Leadership Playbook is an in-depth resource that schools can use to begin implementing collective leadership.

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The strategy

When CLI was developed, CTQ supported a design team of South Carolina educators in crafting their Theory of Action for CLI:

If we develop a cohesive vision of collective leadership and a framework of differentiated support and implementation, then we will be able to support equitable access to excellent educators in all schools and districts and improve student performance through the following:

  • Effective collective leadership teams;
  • Improved perceptions of the teaching profession;
  • Increased teacher recruitment, retention, and advancement opportunities; and
  • Effective teaching and data-responsive instructional practices.

Watch this video to hear from educators in CLI schools.

As the pandemic caused significant shifts, the strategy moved to supporting school teams to leverage collective leadership to face the challenges of virtual schooling. Monthly check-ins became opportunities for CLI schools to share strategies across teams and learn from one another.

Our CLI schools have not only survived, but thrived. I cannot tell you how many times the educators leading our CLI schools made the statement that they could not have been successful during the pandemic had it not been for how they do everything in their buildings through the mindset of “collective leadership.” We’re hopeful that this spirit of collective leadership will be a lasting positive legacy of the crazy COVID year.

Olivia Ortmann, Education Associate, South Carolina Department of Education

The process

CTQ provided support to OEELD for the development of the protocols and systems in which school teams would engage. These include learning modules, monthly check-ins, virtual site visits, and personalized supports. School teams use data gathered from two surveys – systems conditions and educator efficacy – to inform their work and measure progress over time.

The CLI model involves three phases over three years: Designing, Implementing, and Cultivating. Each phase in the model allows for school teams to deepen their understanding and implementation of collective leadership practices in their schools. Teams also develop leadership skills to build capacity and scale the model.


As a result of this work:

  • CLI schools showed improvement in five of seven conditions for effective implementation of collective leadership (Vision and strategy, Supportive Administration, Enabling Work Structures, Supportive Social Norms and Working Relationships, and Constructive Organizational Politics);
  • 100% of schools reported that collective leadership helped them address the challenges associated with the sudden shift to virtual learning.
  • 62% of CLI schools showed an overall increase in teacher efficacy; and
  • Walker-Gamble Elementary School was recognized as one of only three schools to receive the Palmetto’s Finest award.

Collective leadership leverages the talents of all educators in schools.

CTQ supports teams and system leaders to design and implement collective leadership at the school, district, and state levels.