Why We Need to Move Beyond Buy-in

Why did I title my blog “Beyond Buy-in”?  I have spent years in public schools, in higher education, and at the U.S. Department of Education hearing education leaders who believe the last stop on their way to a new policy is teacher buy-in.

Their conception of teacher buy-in is extremely problematic. To me, “buy-in” connotes the need to buy something that is being sold.

Why are we selling education reform policies to teachers? Aren’t teachers are the professionals and experts who are supposed to be educating our children? Then, why don’t policymakers look to them as the creators of solutions that teachers can spread and scale?

Most education reform initiatives fail because they are impractical. In many cases this is because teachers are brought into the process as the final stamp of approval so that initiators of the reform can claim that teachers have provided input.

Take the implementation of the Common Core State Standards as an example. Indiana has decided to pause implementaton of the standards. Michigan has pulled funding. Florida is having second and third thoughts. Louisiana’s governor is equivocating. Arizona is changing the name of the standards to appease certain political factions.

Regardless of your views on standards and assessment, many states have descended into an educational quagmire of arguments between reformers and politicians. Where are the teacher leaders upon whom these initiatives success depends?

Kris Kohl and I wrote an article in the October Kappan, entitled “Beyond Buy-in” based on our work with outstanding teacher leaders. We conclude the piece with the following:

“More than 11,000 school districts in 45 states and the District of Columbia will be implementing the Common Core. Even the most cynical policymaker will acknowledge that learning outcomes will not improve without the cooperation of those charged with the standards’ daily implementation: classroom teachers.

“However, moving beyond mere cooperation and buy-in requires a shift toward identifying and elevating the very best educators to lead their colleagues in making this important change.

We know where to begin that search, with accomplished teachers who are already demonstrating results with their students. It is time to stop selling teachers on the Common Core. It is time to acknowledge and spread teachers’ expertise. It is time to invite teachers to own this promising shift in teaching and learning.”

Many of you reading this are the teachers who are leading and spreading your ideas. You and your students are the reason we need to move beyond buy-in.

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