Education reformers want high teacher performance and high student achievement without excuses. If effective teaching were just about teachers and kids that would be all that needed to be addressed. However, we don’t teach in a void. We teach in highly specific situated realities that seriously influence teacher effectiveness. While a master teacher may be able to teach with a stick and a patch of dirt as fellow Teaching 2030 author Renee Moore has described, a first year or novice teacher will never have the pedagogical skill or knowledge of students to make learning in dire circumstances possible. This is where teacher working conditions come in. Are policy makers and educational reformers willing do what it would take on the systemic and institutional level in order to be able to hold teachers solely accountable?
On December 1st, the Center for Teaching Quality published its latest report in its efforts to change education for the better by leveraging the voices of accomplished teachers. The report, Transforming School Conditions: Building Bridges to the Education System that Students and Teachers Deserve is the first in a body of reports that will describe steps that need to be taken to create the best possible future for students, families, and teachers. Here are some of the suggestions that schools and districts need to consider if they really don’t want excuses:
Be able to make decisions about instruction in their classrooms in order to meet diverse student needs.
Be cultivated as teacher leaders and be able to spread their expertise.
Be offered high-quality professional development – focused on the content and students they teach – In the beginning, middle, and end of their career.
Be evaluated by multiple measures of performance not a single score per child.
Be able to teach in assignments for which they are prepared and be supported in meeting new challenges.
and…they shouldn’t have to beg for paper towels or working lights.