Teaching Profession Opinion

Elevating the Teaching Profession

By Stu Silberman — March 21, 2014 3 min read
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The following guest post is by Ellen Sherratt, a Research and Policy Associate at American Institutes for Research.

In 2011, Secretary Duncan kicked off the first International Summit on the Teaching Profession. Education leaders from around the world meeting in New York City concluded that we need to elevate teaching’s status. As the 4th annual International Summit on the Teaching Profession approaches in March, what do we have to say for ourselves? Most of the policies introduced since 2011 focus narrowly on teacher evaluation and college and career ready standards. The impact on teachers so far seems to be stress and burnout.

Yet, 2014 is looking brighter. Here are five trends in the U.S. that are elevating the teaching profession, and what you can do to give them teeth:

1. Teacher respect. The U.S. Department of Education has launched a resource for educators to participate in a national conversation on the teaching profession. The goal of RESPECT: Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence, and Collaborative Teaching is to make teaching as valued and honored a profession as medicine, law, and engineering by lifting up the present cohort of accomplished teachers and recruiting in a new generation of well-prepared bright young men and women. What can you do? Check out the RESPECT initiative’s tools to spark conversations.

2. Teacher leadership. More than 60 colleges now offer master’s programs in teacher leadership, and eight states have developed teacher leader certifications or endorsements. Last week at the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards “Teaching and Learning” Secretary Duncan announced the " Teach to Lead” initiative, which will expand the opportunities for teachers to be leaders without having to leave the classroom. What can you do? Teachers of the YearJosh Stumpenhorst and David Bosso offer suggestions.

3. Teacher voice. The movement to increase teacher voice is growing. A Center for American Progress report summarizes new organizations that, alongside teachers’ unions and associations, are elevating teacher voice in policy. These organizations contribute toEducation Week and other online media, place teacher leaders in high-level government positions, and serve on think-tank panels.What can you do? Read, listen, and join the conversation. Start with the new Teach Plusbook on teachers’ perspectives on policy. The American Institutes for Research and Public Agenda Everyone at the Table resources provide tools for productive teacher-led conversations on controversial teacher quality policy.

4. Teacher pay. Whether teacher pay should be based on effectiveness ratings remains controversial, but most agree that the average teacher salary of $56,383 falls short. Officials in Hawaii have recently commissioned a statewide study of the adequacy of teacher salaries. Meanwhile, the Teacher Salary Project’s Governors’ Challenge aims to raise public awareness and political will to double teacher pay, and many state governors have come on board. What can you do? Sign on to this national movement!

5. Generation Y. These bright-eyed, bushy-tailed newbie teachers have inherited their Baby Boomer parents’ idealism, optimism, and commitment to helping underprivileged students in particular. Gen Y’ers want to make their workplace better and make friends at work. Ninety percent want their workplace to be social and fun, and 71 percent want their coworkers to be like extended family. The down side? They are prone to job-hopping if they can’t reach these aims. What can you do? Read our tips for supporting teachers from Generation Y and, watch our Gen Y videos , and spark discussions using our Gen Y discussion facilitator guide.

How do these developments relate to your context? What else should be done to make teaching the most highly regarded profession?

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