We Can Create the Profession Students Need
There’s a lot of talk today about making our schools better and our teachers more effective. Researchers have confirmed that, under the right conditions, teachers can make a big difference in how much students learn—even in the most challenging schools. But scholars as well as administrators and teachers (and their union leaders) still disagree, sometimes vehemently, over what constitutes effective teaching—what role student test scores and value-added statistical formulas should play in determining effectiveness—and whether new teachers should be extensively trained or expected to remain in the classroom for a career.
Historical accounts of America’s teaching profession tell a stormy and convoluted story, documenting more than a century of struggle to determine who will teach what and how, under what conditions, and at what cost. As we enter the 21st century’s second decade, education decisionmakers still opt for a patchwork teaching policy that often lowers entry standards to keep salaries and preparation costs down—and judges teacher performance using a narrow band of data from standardized tests built upon 100-year-old principles of teaching and learning.
Many reformers propose a “superhero fix” for our highest-need schools, quickly placing young recruits in challenging classrooms for just a few years. However well intentioned, it’s a solution that largely ignores the problem: Teaching in the 21st century is complex, challenging work. And we need millions of well-prepared, highly savvy teachers who teach in school organizations designed to share their expertise with colleagues down the hall as well as in virtual communities. To move the profession closer to where it needs to be to benefit our students, we must reframe the current reform narrative and enact aggressive new policies that drive a new vision...
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