Saturday, March 27, 2010

NCLB up for re-authorization

The ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) is up for reauthorization under the Obama Administration. A number of proposals are causing concern among the teachers, like the overemphasis on Charter Schools (unproven to increase achievement and a drain on public resources for all), an emphasis on teacher pay linked to student achievement (see last post about my worries on that score), and the likelihood of continued testing (narrows the curriculum and diverts funds to testing companies.)

Rather than complain, here is what I would prefer to see: Money spent on the development of a strong, professional teaching force, beginning in the undergraduate years and extending throughout a career.

How? First, invest in teacher education. Award tuition-free undergraduate education to schools which are approved under NCATE. This will make entry into the teaching profession competitive. Who wouldn't want four years of school paid for? Candidates would have to maintain grades, attend all required pre-service field work, work in lab schools, and provide a demonstration portfolio upon graduation. The student would in turn promise three to five years of service in a public system following graduation. (Some of my colleagues at the collegiate level tell me that student dedication to the pre-service work often leaves much to be desired. Ensuring that the best maintain their grades and show the disposition to teach would mean that well-trained teachers would exit Ed schools. Those who don't perform would lose their seat to another worthy candidate.)

Continue the investment in a strong teaching force by pairing novices with mentors for three years. (Mentoring would be one of many possible hybrid positions for Master Teachers.)

Reconfigure the teaching career ladder into three roles: novice, career, and master teacher. Those who choose can spend their entire career at the career level. Those who wish to move into master teacher roles would have to continue their professional development and achieve National Board Certification to move up the ladder.

Master Teachers would serve in hybrid roles which would cycle in and out of various positions that would ALWAYS be paired with a teaching assignment. For instance, rather than have Deans or Assistant Principals, these administrative roles would be held by the MT's. All adults in the building would take on the various duties of management including: sitting on curriculum committees, determining scheduling, overseeing extra-curricular activities, serving on peer-review boards, mentoring novices, which would be woven into the work day and wrapped around a reduced schedule.

Sharing these roles would develop a team ethic and give all adults in the building an insight into potential problems. In addition, building principals would also teach at least part of every day.

Why does the ESEA need to be a part of these suggestions? Reconfiguring the work would mean diverting funds from tests to people. Title I and Title II funds could be tied to buildings which level their professional team.

Just a suggestion.