Thursday, December 8, 2011

Teachers Leading their Profession

Today the NEA released the report of the Commission on Effective Teachers and Teaching and the NEA responsed to the recommendations of the 21 teachers from across the nation.  I was privileged to be one of those 21 teachers appointed to the Commission for the past year.  We first convened on December 10, 2010 and our charge was to define effective teaching and imagine a teacher-led profession that would result in a true reform of our nation's schools.

You can read the report, Transforming Teaching: Connecting Professional Responsibility with Student Learninghere.  The recommendations are comprehensive and include changing expectations in teacher preparation, induction, and providing a career ladder where accomplished teachers can take on differentiated roles that would lead to changes in schools across the nation, all monitored and evaluated by teachers themselves.

In her remarks, the Commission Chair Maddie Fennel, a fourth-grade teacher from Omaha, Nebraska said the following:

We must make clear to the public, in both our words and our actions, that student learning is at the center of everything we do. Our vision is of a profession that clearly and visibly puts student learning at its core and guarantees that students acquire the critical thinking ability, ingenuity, and citizenship skills they will need to thrive as 21st century citizens. The schools we envision develop students’ academic knowledge, critical thinking, and innovation skills, while also attending to their overall well-being. Our vision for the teaching profession rests on three guiding principles:  1. Student learning is at the center of everything a teacher does.   2. Teachers take primary responsibility for student learning.         3. Effective teachers share in the responsibility for teacher selection, evaluation, and dismissal.
We envision a teaching profession that embraces collective accountability for student learning balanced with collaborative autonomy that allows educators to do what is best for students. 
I can assure you that changing the landscape to ensure success for all of our children, along with a schooling system that ensures the well-being of every child was at the fore of every discussion.  We were always aware that our nation cannot stand on the status quo and that the real road to reform will rely on strong, effective teachers in every classroom.

The NEA's response to the report is to initiate a Three-Point Plan for Reform which includes raising the bar for entrance into the profession,  using teachers to ensure that great teachers are serving our children, and providing union leadership to transform the profession into a teacher-owned profession.

The Commission report did not stop with recommendations to the NEA.  There are suggestions for pre-service providers, policymakers, and the teachers themselves.

The NEA's response is a start.  But the teachers themselves must support and work toward the ownership of our profession--and much of realizing that vision will not be easy.

The Commission has provided the opening for claiming our profession.  Now it is up to us to take on the hard work ahead.

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