The Blueprint is unnecessarily vague on defining teaching effectiveness. Stating the goal, “readiness,” does not describe nor prove support of the possible processes to achieve readiness. Some programs already exist that have been proven to help develop teachers and leaders of excellence, such as National Writing Project and National Board Certification. Both of these programs, with proven, positive results for student achievement, were initiated, designed, and are currently sustained by classroom practitioners, all prior to endorsement by national programs. Given the latitude to design and implement reform, teachers can affect real change. Yet some of these same programs are slated for Federal funding cuts. This sends a very mixed message: our goal is continuous improvement of instruction, but we're unwilling to pay for it.
It is also paradoxical to insist on excellence in teaching on the one hand while encouraging short-term, quick fixes to our teaching shortages on the other. Alternative preparation programs provide minimal, insufficient preparation for the complex work of teaching, particularly teaching in high-needs settings which requires even more advanced pedagogical skills.
A well-trained teacher helps to create better prepared students. Therefore, we suggest the following: one way the teaching profession can be enhanced is by creating more Federal scholarships for pre-service teachers in certified programs, including promising urban and rural teacher residency programs. In addition, expanding funding for programs such as Teacher Quality Partnerships and improved training and collaboration time for existing staff in struggling schools could erase years of punitive measures and build a community of excellence in our most difficult schools. Developing and keeping effective teachers in high needs schools will also require policymakers to address the great inequity in working conditions for teachers and the great inequity in learning conditions for students in those schools.
Without great teachers: continuously supported, trained, dedicated teachers, our students cannot fulfill the goals of the Blueprint or live up to their potential. A great teacher is not an isolated figure who has magically appeared with those skills--great teachers learned how to be effective, and all teachers can improve. Truly exceptional teachers, those who are capable of reaching out to lift up our students from our most high-needs settings, need the support of a great administration behind them.