Thursday, March 17, 2011

Effective Teachers, High Achievers: Investing in the Teaching Profession

"The welfare of our nation rests upon our system of public education. As Thomas Jefferson once said, “If Americans desire to be both ignorant and free, they want what never has been and what will never be.” Indeed, it is our democratic system of governing, based upon the twin pillars of equal rights and responsibilities, which requires we have a system of public education.

...The problem with bureaucratic solutions is that children are not standardized; hence, effective practice cannot be reduced to routines. By its very nature, standardized practice is incapable of providing appropriate education for students who do not fit the mold upon which all of the prescriptions for practice are based. To be effective, teachers must be able to adapt instruction to students’ individual needs. Ironically, prescriptive policies created in the name of public accountability can ultimately reduce a school’s responsiveness to the needs of its students and the desires of its parents. Faceless regulations become the scapegoats for school failure, since no one person in the system takes responsibility for the collective impact the system has on the learning opportunities for all children.

In addition, incentives should be put in place to attract to these schools expert teachers who can serve as mentors and curriculum leaders. These incentives should address the key factors found to affect recruitment and retention: principals who are strong instructional leaders; colleagues who are like-minded and similarly committed; supportive teaching conditions — including reasonable class sizes, plentiful materials and equipment, time for collaboration, and input into decisions; and adequate compensation.(9)

It should be accompanied by a performance-based teacher evaluation system that provides information about teacher effectiveness by conducting standards-based evaluations of teaching practices conducted through classroom observations by expert peers or supervisors, as well as a systematic collection of evidence about the teacher’s planning, instruction, and assessment practices, work with parents and students, and contributions to the school. This collection of evidence could also include evidence of student learning and progress drawn from student work samples; classroom, district or state assessments, as appropriate; and teacher documentation."

...Creating a responsive education system requires first and foremost that we invest heavily in the education of and support for our teachers and school leaders, so that every school has well-qualified and committed adults in charge of making important decisions. Then we must provide educators with the space and time for engaging with communities in guiding their joint work. In this way, we create a situation where the means of public education are consistent with its ends — as young children are in the company of caring and competent adults who demonstrate how to make important decisions in consultation with peers and the community."

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