Teaching Profession

A Look At ‘Teacher Voice’ Organizations

By Stephen Sawchuk — January 28, 2013 1 min read
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Longtime education journalist Richard Lee Colvin takes an interesting look at “teacher voice” organizations in Education Next, outlining the origins and goals of four such groups.

Colvin’s piece covers a lot of the same ground that I did a few years back in this Education Week story and blog post, which is surely a testament to both the growing influence of these groups as well as some of the continuing challenges they face.

There’s a lot to mine here, but one of the most interesting details to consider is their relationship with the teachers’ unions. As Colvin notes, the groups’ starting point is very different from the unions': Most of the groups agree that teachers differ in effectiveness and that policies should reflect that, in part by giving the best teachers roles that help them expand their reach.

The unions are not so sanguine on this point, which has been problematic as they’ve tried to respond to policies in line with that basic tenet. While both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers have passed new resolutions regarding teacher evaluation, they have tended to focus on the systems’ potential for professional development rather than its connection to policies like tenure. And outside of national headquarters, the new statements haven’t always been embraced by their affiliates.

By the same token, these teacher voice groups have been looked upon somewhat suspiciously by the teachers’ unions, and the piece makes the good point of noting that because the groups aren’t dues-paying organizations, they’re dependent on grants from private foundations—always a tricky dance in a policy climate that remains divided over such philanthropies’ activities.

The money quote on this comes from analyst Julia Koppich, who says “the new generation of teachers aren’t collectivists, they’re pretty much individualists. They don’t understand unions. And the unions don’t understand them.”

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