Getting More High Quality Teachers Into High Needs Schools

In October 2009, I was invited to D.C. to speak to a room full of staff people working for members of Congress and a few other Federal agencies at the Library of Congress. These were people interested (or assigned) to education issues. The invitation came from the Forum on Education and Democracy, and the event was led by Sam Chaltain.

My task was to address the question of how to get more high quality teachers to work in high needs schools. My responses were not quite what people had expected. I didn’t know this was on Vimeo, and although I was pleased to find it, I was saddened by how little progress has been made on these issues since then.

What do you think? Why aren’t we there, yet?

  • SusanGraham

    Where’s the indignation?

    YES! YES! YES!  Highly effective teachers are neither missionaries nor mercenaries!

    I was fascinated that when you told them that highly effective teachers were subversive in order to be effective, they laughed. I get the irony of that statement as a teacher, and yes those of us within the profession often share gallows humor about covert operations needed to do what’s best for students. But it occurs to me if your comment, in this setting, was received with a sort of gentle amusement rather than outrage, that there is a mindset that somehow, yes, we know, but we accept that as the way the system works. Would anyone chuckle at event where doctor talking about emergency trauma care after a mass shooting said “We have to work around the guidelines to save patients”? Would there be an attitude of benign collusion if a Medal  of Honor recipient said, “Our soldiers on the frontline have to regularly disobey direct commands in order to protect our nation”?

    I’m wondering why there wasn’t breathless indignation on the part of the stakeholders in the room. I guess they just don’t realize that this is every bit as unacceptable. Bless their hearts. Do they just not get it?



    We are not missionaries nor are we mercenaries!!!

    Bless their hearts!

  • ReneeMoore

    Bless Their Hearts….

    No, most of them did not get it and did not realize how sad that really was. Most of the audience were young staffers who worked for members of Congress as their education person, or for other federal agencies. That’s what I found most distressing; the people the Congressional members were relying on for advice on education issues are barely out of school, most had no classroom experience. 

    I wish more teachers would make a concerted effort to insert themselves as expert consultants and advisors to their legislators.

    • KrisGiere

      Teacher voice…

      The one thing I have learned early and often here at CTQ is that teacher voice needs to be proactively given value by the teachers themselves.  I agree and like that you are challenging teachers to insert themselves as consultants/advisors in the political arena.  Are there any good ways to develop inroads for teachers to do that?  I know some great teachers whose voice I would love to be in the ear and on the hearts of our legislators, and I would happily advocate for them to do just that if I knew where to begin.  Any advice you can share would be awesome.  Thanks!

  • ReneeMoore

    Making Effective Connections

    We have some colleagues around the country who have done this work, and I’d love for them to share their experiences. I see a two-part strategy for increasing teacher voice in this area. One part is teachers who have some solutions-oriented expertise to share to make regular and often individual contact with their representatives…or target a specific state or national rep with whom to develop some back and forth. At first it will probably be form letters, but try to find out who the staff person is that’s assigned to education issues, and try to address correspondence to that person. Make them an offer—to meet, to share resources, etc.

    I have found giving these key staffers and my reps materials from CTQ–especially things like the Teacher Solutions reports or shorter papers/articles alerts them that there is a network of teacher leaders to whom they can turn. Also, in our state, NBPTS and NBCTs are highly respected, so that’s a credential that can sometimes open the door for more meaningful dialogue with a policymaker.

    But wait, isn’t this supposed to be the work of our teacher unions? Promoting teacher voice and representing the profession in the political and policy arena??? I know that’s a loaded question and role of unions varies greatly across states and at the national level. Many politicans from the “red” states can’t afford to be seen as cozying up to teacher unions. But where is our national level organization or network (and its state affliates) created by the teaching profession itself to whom policymakers can turn for authentic and authoritative teacher expertise?