How teachers will rock the news in 2012

I may not always agree with Rick Hess—but there’s no doubt that his blog posts are worthy of attention. In “Ten Edu-Stories We’ll Be Reading in 2012,” Rick predicts headlines for the coming year. He foresees increased skepticism of Race To The Top reforms and Khan Academy’s video-based model of education. He anticipates GOP presidential nominees abandoning attacks on public education in a “push for moderates.”

While Rick claims to be a lousy prognosticator, his list is intriguing.

But what’s absent in his list is any mention of teachers. None. Zero. Nada.

This is surprising because teachers have been the coin of the education policy realm for fifteen years or so. Few researchers (or reformers, for that matter) dispute the impact that improved teaching can have on student outcomes. Home and family factors are powerful influences on student achievement, but teachers matter.

So I’m offering my own version of Rick’s list. Sure, it may be optimistic—but we can hope, right?

5] Presidential Candidates Talk Up Teachers. President Obama and GOP presidential hopefuls realize that one in 100 Americans are teachers. Candidates focus less on “getting rid of bad teachers” and more on the positive: preparing and supporting teachers to do their best work.

4] USDOE Spreads Teaching Expertise. Acknowledging the uneven implementation of Race To The Top efforts, the USDOE adjusts its strategies. Rather than merely identifying effective teachers, officials promote strategies to elevate those teachers as leaders and spread their expertise to peers.

3] Policymakers Ask Accomplished Teachers for ESEA Help. Policymakers realize ESEA reauthorization is not in the cards for 2012. They turn to accomplished teachers, including former state and national teachers of the year, to help build public demand for improving the law. The teachers emphasize that the law must build capacity in high-need schools and districts—not just punish them.

2] Reformers Improve Bricks-and-Clicks Model. The Khan Academy’s “flipped” classroom model fails to yield the results reformers have been expecting—especially for at-risk students. In response, reformers invest more in innovative roles for teachers as community organizers, virtual mentors, and connectors to social services.

1] Obama Elevates National Board Certified Teachers. While GOP nominee Mitt Romney highlights TFA recruits who teach for two-year stints, President Obama points to National Board Certified Teachers as committed, accomplished standard bearers for school reform.

Now, I’d rather bet on my favorite college football team (Go Gamecocks!) than wager for the accuracy of this list.

But if we want to get serious about college and career readiness for all kids, the education conversation must shift. We must talk about what it takes to recruit, prepare, and support effective teachers. And I fervently hope that the “we” who are talking are not just the same old chatterers: policymakers, reformers, pundits. I hope that “we” also includes our nation’s most accomplished teachers—whose untapped expertise could transform our public schools.

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