Teaching Profession

Can a New Political Campaign to ‘Modernize’ Teaching Succeed?

By Stephen Sawchuk — November 09, 2015 2 min read
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A coalition of 40 national groups are banding together to launch TeachStrong, a campaign to make “modernizing” the teaching profession via improvements to pay, training, and professional opportunities an issue in the 2016 presidential election, as well as state and local contests.

TeachStrong, as the Washington Post’s Lyndsey Layton reports, is being put together by the Center for American Progress, a think tank with Obama administration ties. She reports that the $1 million effort will include some early primary events, as well as lots of social media outreach.

There are more than 40 groups participating, including the two national teachers’ unions, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and the National Council on Teacher Quality. Check out the full list.

The general principles TeachStrong will push for are summed up in a graphic below. Many of these are ideas that have been embraced and promoted elsewhere, although the new effort ties them all together attractively.

CAP, concurrent with the release, put forth a report with its own ideas for advancing the principles. It calls for, among other things, making teacher training more selective and relevant; for raising teachers’ starting salaries and tying bonuses and tenure to performance; and creating career ladders so that the best teachers can stretch and assume new duties.

TeachStrong kicks off at a splashy event Nov. 10 in Washington.

I do have to put on my skeptical reporter’s hat for a moment here and ask what this effort can realistically accomplish. A lot of these groups have really different ideas about how to prioritize these principles and how to get them done, which raises questions about agreement beyond generalities.

Teach For America and the National Center for Teacher Residencies have totally different models for pre-service preparation, for instance. Improving teacher-preparation diversity and selectivity? Well, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education likes the first idea, but has been worried about an accreditor’s selectivity standards. A harder licensing exam? The AFT’s top brass likes this idea, but its rank-and-file membership is not such a big fan. Reforming tenure was one of the part of the catalysts of the Vergara case in California, and, well, look how that’s divided the field.

Add to that the challenge of making improvements to the profession an important campaign issue (ED in ‘08, anyone?) and this coalition has its work cut out for it. But we’ll look forward to seeing how it progresses in the weeks to come, so stay tuned!

Graphic: TeachStrong’s nine principles for modernizing and elevating teaching.

Clarification: This post has been updated to clarify that not all the groups have endorsed the specific recommendations in the CAP report.

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