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Unusual Coalition Supports Principles to Advance Teaching Profession

A set of nine laudable principles to advance the teaching profession undergird an ambitious campaign organized by the Center for American Progress (CAP) that launches today. The new initiative, TeachStrong, targets improvements at every stage of the educator pipeline, from recruitment and preparation through licensure and career pathways, calling for a much-needed shift in focus in education policy away from test-and-punish accountability and toward strengthening the teaching profession.

TeachStrong attempts to elicit a common tune from the cacophony of voices across the education sector—from AACTE and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards to the National Council on Teacher Quality and Teach for America—with a “Path to Modernizing and Elevating Teaching” comprising nine goals:

  1. Identify and recruit candidates “with great potential to succeed,” with a deliberate emphasis on diversity
  2. Anchor teacher preparation in classroom practice and a professional knowledge base, with high standards for all candidates
  3. Make licensure a more meaningful measure of readiness to teach
  4. Increase teacher compensation
  5. Support new teachers through induction or residency programs
  6. Make tenure a more meaningful measure of professional accomplishment
  7. Give teachers more time and support for planning, collaboration, and development
  8. Design professional learning to better address student and teacher needs
  9. Create career pathways that give teachers opportunities to lead and grow professionally

These nine principles received the support of the 40-plus TeachStrong partner organizations, but of course, the devil is in the details. AACTE clearly does not endorse the inflammatory messaging on the campaign’s web site.* Although we regularly promote efforts to unite the profession around common goals, the new campaign is littered with reformist rhetoric that has some partners keeping an arm’s length—and could quickly doom the initiative’s potential for success. Nonetheless, the urge to coalesce behind an improvement agenda won the support of diverse partners with the help of carefully crafted language to stake out common ground.

Prior to today’s TeachStrong launch, CAP released a report outlining a much more detailed case for the systemic change effort. Smart, Skilled, and Striving: Transforming and Elevating the Teaching Profession offers a combination of useful recommendations and tired myths about educator preparation and support. The report catalogs today’s salient improvement directions in a comprehensive overview, but it also relies on some dubious sources, calls for federal regulations to help achieve reforms in teacher preparation, and betrays a lack of awareness of the progress currently building toward its recommendations. Unfortunately, AACTE was not offered an opportunity to see or comment on the report before its release.

Fortunately, the news regarding educator preparation is better than the report’s authors seem to know. The improvement areas they identify are precisely those in which the field has been innovating with energy and intensity—just take a look at some of the efforts profiled in AACTE’s Innovations Inventory and Research-to-Practice Spotlight Series. Schools of education are cultivating rich partnerships for clinical practice, attracting promising students with more purposeful selection and support efforts, immersing candidates in culturally responsive practice, and adopting performance-based assessments for not only licensing but program improvement purposes.

Let’s hope that these trends benefit from the attention directed their way today and as the TeachStrong work advances the profession-oriented focus. Even among odd company, we can find much to like in our shared agenda.

* Post Script: One hallmark of collaboration is respectful listening, and another is acknowledgment. We want to acknowledge the TeachStrong staff at CAP for listening to our concerns over the campaign’s initial web content and changing it. We can all respect that!

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Sharon Robinson

President and CEO, AACTE