New national goals set for teaching profession

A blueprint for improving the teaching profession nationally calls for more emphasis on quality preparation programs, higher standards for entry into the profession and better compensation for both classroom educators and school administrators.

Released by the U.S. Department of Education, the report represents collaboration between federal officials and a number of private school organizations including Council of Chief State School Officers, American Federation of Teachers, the National School Board Association and the Association of School Administrators.

Noting that U.S. education is under increasing pressure to produce college and career ready students, the authors pointed out that many educators view the current setting not so much as a crisis but as an opportunity for reform.

The American education system is situated at a historic crossroads where we have the ability to continue on our current trajectory or to chart a new course," the report's authors said. "This is our Moon Landing moment," a principal in Virginia was quoting saying, and urged her colleagues to take advantage of the opportunity to do something remarkable.

Toward that end, the blueprint - titled RESPECT: Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence and Collaborative Teaching - laid out seven areas where public policy should be revised to improve the teaching profession.

Among the ideas is to support "the programs that prepare highly effective educators and offer high-quality and substantive curricula and clinical preparation experiences." Preparation needs to include "significant clinical opportunities" where successful veteran teachers are able to oversee and mentor new educators.

There is a call for higher standards for entering the profession and more rigorous benchmarks for attainting certification to ensure new teachers have mastered key instructional strategies and have the disposition to work effectively with students and school colleagues.

They note that in Shanghai, teachers frequently observe each other and participate in daily, subject-based "teaching-study groups." New teachers observe more experienced teachers to learn from them, and senior teachers observe other teachers to mentor them.

There needs to be continuous growth and professional development, the report says, calling schools "communities" where the shared practice of collaboration is informed by data collection and external expertise.

Teacher effectiveness must also be part of the equation, the report said: "Effectiveness must be evaluated based on measures of student academic growth, evidence from classroom and school practice, and contributions to colleagues and the school community."

But rather than necessarily tying the evaluation results to compensation, efforts should be made to use the outcome for guiding professional development. That said, the authors noted that evaluations should inform personnel decisions including teacher and principal assignments, the granting of tenure and promotions as well as "dismissal for those who, despite receiving support, are ineffective."

The report calls for a more robust career ladder where effective teachers have opportunities to become instructional leaders or administrators.

"And these roles must be coupled with compensation that is high enough to attract and retain a highly skilled workforce; reflects the effectiveness, expertise, and contributions of each educator; and is consistent with the societal regard accorded to comparable professions," the report said.

The study pointed out that in Finland, teachers are recruited from the top 20 percent of high school graduates. However, it's not enough for candidates to be academically gifted â they also have to demonstrate, through a series of interviews and a simulated teaching activity, that they have other traits essential to good teaching, such as communication and social skills.

The map comes as President Barack Obama continues to lobby Congress to set aside $5 billion to support grant funding and other programs aimed at promoting teachers. The RESPECT report includes many of the same goals as the Obama administration.

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