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6 ways to make the most of RESPECT

Last week the U.S. Department of Education published President Obama’s Blueprint for RESPECT, a 36-page framework for the future of teaching in America. On the USDOE webpage you can find the report, as well as a tool “that allows teachers and leaders to evaluate how RESPECTful their school or district is,” as well as a video of educators sharing their perspectives about the initiative.

The report was based on conversations and input from “nearly 6,000 teachers from around the country.” This process alone represents an important step: involving teachers in the creation of a report is key to the development of any effective education policy. At CTQ, teachers regularly lead the way in the development of reports and multimedia projects about systemic education improvements.

As a former teacher (30+ years ago) who has spent decades studying (and now) advocating for the profession, I have to say kudos for the USDOE putting together this framework, which paints a positive picture for the profession. The key now is building off the blueprint, filling in some missing pieces, and turning ideas into action.

To fill in some of the gaps in the RESPECT framework I would suggest the following:

  1. Though the blueprint includes a much-needed call for “top talent, prepared for success,” we need to make sure that all new recruits, no matter their pathway into the profession, meet the same high standards.
  2. The report references the importance of novice teachers learning themselves and analyzing student learning outcomes. But there is much potential here to capitalize on the new teacher performance assessment enterprise led by researchers at Stanford University. As of now, more than 20 states, working with the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE), are piloting the potentially powerful tool.
  3. Regardless of the necessary push for salaries to “reflect quality of a teacher’s work” and for evaluation tools to gauge effectiveness of “helping students to grow academically,” we need to be realistic about the obstacles that exist in using value-added statistical tools (See latest piece from Goldhaber and Loeb). We also need to focus on how better-quality assessments can not just identify effective teachers but also promote the spread of teaching expertise.
  4. Even with its reasonable discussion of a teacher’s “career continuum” and the need for competitive compensation, the blueprint can go even further. We must rethink teacher leadership on a larger scale. Instead of suggesting teacher leadership is needed to solely serve schools and districts, we need a bolder brand of teacher leader—teacherpreneurs—to incubate and execute their own bold ideas and spread them across their state, the nation, and the world.
  5. Our country currently has more than 100,000 National Board Certified Teachers—imagine the great work they could do if they had opportunities to lead on a systems level. Think, for instance, how the USDOE report could have outlined the role NBCTs could play in leading PLCs, especially with their known expertise in analyzing student work to inform more effective pedagogical practices. (For a fabulous call to action on NBCT leadership, see this recent piece from CTQ teacher and NBCT Dan Brown.)
  6. What about virtual networks? The report calls for “levera(ging) technology to further expand the reach of highly effective teachers,” which is key. But there are so many ways that teachers are already connecting and leading policy and pedagogical reforms in virtual networks, such as the CTQ Collaboratory. How can we take their work further, and encourage even more educators and supporters to get involved?

The USDOE report rightfully concludes with the “immediate hope and expectation….that America’s 4 million active teachers and principals will lead the effort to reshape their profession.” It is now time for the Obama Administration to help unleash the potential of many, many leaders from the classroom who have much bolder ideas—like those laid out by teachers in the book TEACHING 2030—about how to transform their profession.

It is time for the Obama Administration to cultivate teacherpreneurs who seek to teach for a career—as their students and school communities require—but also have the time, space, geography, and reward to transform the profession that makes all others possible.

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