Both Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee for president, and her GOP opponent, Donald Trump have sketched out bare-bones plans to improve the teaching profession. But neither has offered hard-and-fast details.
Clinton says teachers need more time to collaborate, more opportunities for professional development, and oh yeah, much better pay. She’s also said she wants to launch a national campaign to improve the teaching profession, but hasn’t really said what that would look like, or how much it would cost.
And in his one big speech on education, earlier this fall, Trump, gave the thumbs-up to paying teachers who can improve student outcomes—a key Obama-era policy that Clinton isn’t a fan of. Other than that, he hasn’t said much about teachers beyond denouncing “education bureaucrats” in his nomination acceptance speech. That could be a reference to teachers’ unions—or not.
So, reading between the lines, what do experts think teacher policy might look like in a potential Clinton or Trump administration?
Let’s start with Clinton’s idea for a big national campaign to improve the teaching profession. As a possible model, a lot of folks have pointed to TeachStrong, which also just so happens to be a campaign to improve the teaching profession, started by the Center for American Progress, a think tank closely associated with Clinton. (And Obama, for that matter.)
Some of their basic principles include: Diversifying the teacher workforce, and raising bars for entry into the profession; putting a greater emphasis on clinical training; improving so-called “induction” programs that introduce educators to the profession; beefing up professional development to make it more meaningful; and putting in place “career ladders” for teachers.
“We see systemic change to the teacher pipeline as the next [needed] change,” said Lisette Partelow, the director of teacher policy at CAP’s Action Fund. It’s necessary, she said, because “We’ve made the job much more challenging.” That means teachers need to be given the education, training and support necessary “to meet that higher bar,” Partelow said.
More than 60 organizations are on board with the campaign, including the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. Both national teachers’ unions endorsed Clinton early on in the Democratic primary, to the chagrin of some of their members, who wish she’d given more of an ear to Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. And Clinton has pledged that, as president, she’d give teachers a seat at the policy-making table.
For a critique of TeachStrong’s approach from the left, check out this post on the Curmudgucation Blog, which is written by Peter Greene, a teacher in Pennsylvania who’s also written for Education Week Teacher.
Another possible model: Legislation introduced earlier this year by Rep. Bobby Scott, the top Democrat on the House education committee, and Rep. Susan Davis, D-Calif., another key member of the committee. Their bill would authorize $2 billion in new money to help improve the teaching profession, including giving beginning teachers more opportunities to co-teach with a veteran, and giving teachers opportunities to earn advanced certification.
Also notable: Clinton has come out swinging against the idea of teacher evaluation through student outcomes. States were required to move forward on this in order to get a waiver from the mandates of the No Child Left Behind Act. But the new version of the law, the Every Student Succeeds Act, leaves evaluation entirely up to states. If Clinton wins, it’s unclear if states will be more likely to take a cue from her and ditch their evaluation systems.
There are even more unknowns when it comes to Trump and teachers. The GOP nominee said in a speech earlier this year that he thinks it’s unfair that bad teachers sometimes make more than good ones. But it’s not clear if he actually wants to create a merit pay program at the federal level, or just encourage states and districts to do it on their own.
Jeanne Allen, the founder and CEO of the Center on Education Reform, who worked on K-12 issues during the Reagan administration, said Trump’s views on teachers may be “a big question mark”, but she expects they’ll head in what she considers the right direction, if he’s elected.
“He’s made it clear that, except for routing money towards school choice, education needs to be happening locally. No action is good action,” she said. At the same time, she said she expects Clinton’s approach to teacher policy would come down to “more development, more experience, more support” which in her view is “kind of a worn out concept.”
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