What does 2014 hold for the teaching profession?

CTQ CEO and partner Barnett Berry offers four bold predictions about changes in the teaching profession in 2014.

Originally published on 12/24/13 as part of EdSurge’s 2014 Outlooks Series, under the title “Teachers Can Lead Without Leaving the Classroom.”

I founded the Center for Teaching Quality (CTQ) in 1998 after serving as a former inner-city teacher, a profession that I eventually fled. Of late, CTQ has focused on connecting, readying, and mobilizing teachers (primarily in virtual space) so they can transform their own profession in the best interest of the students they serve.

Despite teaching’s sociologically troubled past, I see four trends emerging more prominently in the year ahead to catalyze teachers’ efforts.

1. Fewer attacks on teachers

In recent years, plenty of ed reformers have fixated on teachers as key sources of schools’ problems. But newly implemented teacher evaluation reforms offer evidence that there are relatively few ineffective teachers–even by more rigorous measures. (Turns out that the supposedly vast hordes of bad teachers slithering down the halls of American schools were as mythical as some of us knew all along.)

This revelation is pushing policymakers to think differently about the profession, as is the media’s newfound interest in well-established teaching trends (like the fact that top-performing nations invest in teachers). Countries like Finland and Singapore, who have been at the top of the heap on global measures of student achievement, focus on preparing new recruits more deeply–i.e. no short-cuts to teaching–and providing them with more time to learn from one another.

Already in late 2013, we’re beginning to see a shift in how the public views teachers and in how the media portrays teachers.

The most recent Kappan poll shows that the vast majority of the American public–72%–have trust and confidence in today’s teachers. And check out how New York Times journalist Joe Nocera portrays the complexity of teaching.

My first prediction? Expect more nuanced coverage and conversations about teachers and teaching in 2014.

2. Educators will be more connected than ever

Way back in 1932, sociologist Willard Waller addressed fundamental tensions undermining teaching as a profession, including its low status as “women’s work” and the isolation of those who teach. These remain chronic issues.

Although stuck in school organizations designed on archaic industrial models, more teachers are turning to the Internet to learn from and work with one another.

Social media and virtual learning communities like the CTQ Collaboratory connect teachers on matters of policy and pedagogy with colleagues far and wide. BetterLesson and the Teaching Channel offer new ways for teachers to “see” and assess each other’s practice in 24/7 environments.

In 2014, we will see even more teachers connecting online as they develop and share instructional practices and resources—especially to help students meet Common Core State Standards.

3. Growing demand for teacherpreneurs

Powerful evidence (like this study, for example) speaks to how teacher leadership—including teachers’ sharing of expertise and collaboration over time—can make a significant difference for student learning.

A recent poll found that 23 percent of American teachers are “extremely” or “very interested” in serving in hybrid roles that blend teaching and leadership responsibilities. The same poll also shows they are far less interested in leaving the classroom to become principals. Meanwhile, growing numbers of administrators are ready for change: three out of four report that their jobs are “too complex.”

This year, my colleagues and I chronicled new opportunities for teachers to lead in bold ways in Teacherpreneurs: Innovative Teachers Who Lead But Don’t Leave. Wondering what this looks like? Imagine classroom experts who spend part of their time teaching students and part of their time mentoring new teachers, co-developing apps and edugames, analyzing assessment data, organizing community partnerships, designing curricula, or researching and influencing policy.

At the Center for Teaching Quality, we don’t have to imagine teacherpreneurs.

For the past few school years, we’ve partnered with school districts across the country to employ them, spreading these accomplished teachers’ policy and pedagogical expertises far and wide.

Savvy policymakers are on the same page. Iowa is the first state to create a policy framework that encourages teachers to lead in powerful ways and rewards them not for raising test scores, but for spreading their teaching expertise to their colleagues to help more students.

Look for more districts and states to follow Iowa’s lead in 2014, setting the stage for a recalibration of decision-making about everything from curricula to edtech purchasing. 

4. Unions as brokers of teacher expertise

Teacher unions remain under attack, particularly by those who do not see any benefit in teachers gaining professional status.

But the nation’s two largest teacher unions have launched leadership initiatives to help members prepare to lead reforms related to the Common Core and next-generation learning systems.

As teacher leaders gain ground over the next several years, unions will trend towards becoming brokers of teacher expertise.

As suggested in my book Teaching 2030, imagine unions as they morph into professional guilds, to literally help their members serve in joint appointments, in and out of the public sector (much the way some university professors do so today). This change will necessitate a renewed commitment to teaching excellence and differentiation within teachers’ ranks–which, in turn, will result in a greater push from the public for deep investments in the very profession that makes all other professions possible.

As an early step, unions will begin to promote teacherpreneurism in late 2014—easing the way for the #edtech community to tap teachers’ expertise.  

  • Amy Waldrop

    Investing in teacher preparation

    Just as successful countries are doing the U.S. must invest in teacher preparation.  Over my career I have encountered many teachers in my area , mathematics, that were not knowledgeable in the content  or the pedagogy.   Through my own national board certification and my national board candidate mentoring I am convinced that the majority truly want to do a better job they simply lack the trainining.  I sincerely hope that reform is on the way for the education and mentoring of mathematics teachers for ALL grades. 

    • BarnettBerry

      NBCTS and teacher leadership 4 spreading teaching expertise

      Amy. Every other top performing nation has a range of interlocking policies to ensure teachers spread their teaching expertise, Check out Lesson Study at http://www.walsnet.org/ as an internatiomal movement. In nations like Singagore the teachers’ union explicitly helps its members engage in this practice Of course these nations also do not let teachers (including those who teach math) teach out of field. The trick is how to make this work and its import more visible. WE MUST FIND A WAY TO CREATE MORE TIME FOR TEACHERS TO TEACH AND LEAD. MORE AND MORE THIS IS BECOMING MORE AND MORE CENTRAL TO WHAT CTQ IS DOING….AND THE CTQ COLLABORTORY AND THE ELEVATON OF TEACHERS IS CORE!

  • Jeffrey Hinton

    Teacher Leaders

    Thanks for the wonderful post, now is the time for teachers to lay claim to the profession we love. Teacher leadership is the new way forward, As the Nevada 2014 Teacher of the Year, my message has focused on this issue and most teachers and stakeholders agree, teacherpreneurs are going to change the face of education.   http://thereformmindedteacher.blogspot.com/

    • BradenWelborn

      Jeffrey, can you send me a quick email?

      Barnett is in your area this week and would love to meet you. Please email me at bwelborn@teachingquality.org so that we can figure out whether this might be a possibility! (Sorry–couldn’t locate your email online!)


    • BarnettBerry



  • SanaTayyab

    Centers for Teaching Quality

    As a teacher, I feel that we need to encourage the trend of teachers’ training. It is our responsibility to learn from as well as teach our friend teachers, and I can sense that the time is approaching when teacherpreneurs will produce excellent teachers which in turn will give birth to extraordinary students.

    My website: http://www.ipracticemath.com

    • BarnettBerry


      Sana. In other professions new recruits are socialized to spread their experitse to each other in their pre-service training programs – and then organizational structures allow them to do so once they begin their practice. We must do the same in teaching.

  • LotharKonietzko


    I appreciate the tone of this blog/post/article.  I have felt beaten down for a while thanks to media outlets who aren’t doing good journalism and State of Michigan politicians who are attacking public education and teachers.  These attacks have added more responsibilities to my already full plate.  I’m in at 7 am and coming home to my family often at 7 pm.  While I agree that most people respect what we do as teachers, because they would not want to do “it” themselves, we are still very far behind other nations in funding and investing in our public education system as a percentage of budgetary spending at the state and federal levels.   I also agree that we will have the ability to be more connected here in cyberspace, but having the time to do so is problematic under the current expectations many of us in “priority” urban schools are under.  Trying to figure out how to add one more important thing to my plate is something I’m good at but I am also aware of how it stretchs me to a point that I lose effectiveness in places.  So I am hoping to gain insight on how to do something I ask my AP students to do, find a way to balance it all.   Thanks for the positive outlook, ill try to keep that more in front of me.  I am a 15 year urban school teacher in Michigan.

  • Kincaid Donovan

    Couldn’t Say it Better

    Everyone – with no exception – will always need teachers.

    Thanks for this nice post!

    It’s always great to read something that recognizes and thinks about the job we do. It’s a breather. I’d say it’s too early to say that there will be fewer attacks this year. We’re still on the first month of the year, and things can happen. I mean, who knows?

    As to teachers being more connected, I think it’s a must nowadays. Otherwise, we’ll fall behind our students. More than anyone else, teachers I believe should be at the forefront of innovation.

    How can we improve our teaching strategy? What are the latest technology or apps we can employ in teaching? These are questions teachers should be asking about.

    Always at the forefront, always on the go.

    Keep up!

    -Kincaid D.-


  • BarnettBerry

    time and space

    Lothar. We so understand the “full plate.”  We MUST do something about teachers’ tiem and space. Some of  our strategy begins with CTQ-Global and our School Redesign lab. but also some work we hope to be doing soon with expanded learning time 4 KIDS and TEACHER LEADERSHIP. 

    • LotharKonietzko

      Time and Space

      Barnett, I think one thing that technology can do is help with some of the lack of time issues we face.  However, their are examples where it isn’t helping.  I’d like to learn more abou CTQ-Global and the School Redesign Lab etc. that you are mentioning.  I also think that the unions in my state and even the NEA and AFT have got to figure out how to improve their image of what they do.  Members in Right To Work States, now Michigan, may not see value in their unions because their unions are not doing a good job of getting that point across to their members.  Our union for the most part, Lansing Schools Education Association (LSEA.org) has done a decent job of protecting our class sizes and seeing that teachers are compensated fairly for extra time and not letting poor decision makers just steam roll their bad ideas into policy.  Time and Space are part of the working condidtions we all work under. How we figure improvements to those is a difficult question to tackle.

      • Mini Khaled and another Juan

        Fancy seeing you here.

        Mr. K I couldn't agree more. Bri,you remember her right and I are so done with this district. You should run the district because you my teacher know how to use your brain. You truly have the key to success. -Mini Khaled and Another Juan (Ruth and bri)


  • JustinMinkel

    Hard evidence for hope

    Beyond the individual predictions, what struck me about this piece is the balance of evidence and hope. It’s easy to find reasons to despair about the profession, and it’s easy, too, to ignore the grinding complexity of on-the-ground conditions in favor of idealism freed from reality’s constraints.

    This piece does the hard work by taking the path of most resistance: considering the complex realities of the current education landscape, and finding grounded reasons for hope within it.

    Cynics are famous for saying, “I’m not a pessimist, I’m a realist.” Barnett provides a model for teacher leaders to say instead, “I’m not an optimist, I’m a realist,” then back it up with hard evidence for hope.

  • CherylSuliteanu

    “hopetimism” lives!

    Barnett, your take on embracing the challenges of our experiences as teachers, with the “hopetimism” of believing in our power as teacher leaders to make our dreams for our students reality, is refreshing.

    The best resources we have to achieve our goals is each other.  As the CTQ Collaboratory grows, our impact as teacher leaders grows.  Having the Collaboratory to reach out to our colleagues for support, for resources, and for guidance is like a never-ending professional development experience.  

    As Justin so eloquently stated, we cannot “ignore the grinding complexity of on-the-ground conditions in favor of idealism freed from reality’s constraints.”  We know our challenges, we know our strengths, and we know each other.  Oh, the places we’ll go!

    “If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.” — African Proverb