A Complex Landscape for ‘Teacher Voice’

By Stephen Sawchuk — September 20, 2011 1 min read
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By now I hope you’ve had time to check out a story I did recently about some interesting new groups that are trying to give teachers avenues for shaping policy decisions on the issues that most affect them.

As I stated in the story, all of the groups have very different origins, purposes and philosophies. Some of the newest, such as the Los Angeles-based NewTLA, a caucus within the teachers’ union, are still working out the positions they want to take and what they want to accomplish.

But the bottom line is that it’s significant to see teachers getting so involved at the macro-level where policy is made. After all, teachers are already all but consumed by the demands of their own individual classrooms and students, so belonging to these kinds of organizations really means something. Perhaps it’s a sign that they are more and more invested in having their say in the many changes to the profession coming down the pike.

My story, of course, was not an exhaustive list of all of the different groups that have sprung up to give teachers a voice, and since the story ran I’ve heard from several others with similar projects. Here’s but a sampling:

Accomplished California Teachers, a California-based group,has released policy papers on teacher evaluation. It’s supported by the William and Flora Hewlitt Foundation, as well as the Stuart Foundation; the latter played a major role in supporting the Center for Teaching Quality’s New Millennium Initiative, which I featured in my story.

• A couple of other groups, including the New York Collective of Radical Educators and the Grassroots Education Movement have sprung up in New York City. Both hold very different opinions than the Educators 4 Excellence group I wrote about, and believe there’s too much high-stakes testing and corporate philanthropy in education. NYCORE also helped develop a film to counter the “Waiting for ‘Superman’ ” documentary.

• Finally, The VIVA Project is an online community of teachers that have issued policy briefs, and maintain a blog and discussion boards. Several of its teachers will be featured on NBC’s Education Nation Town Hall this September.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.