Will a new Congress make smarter teaching policy decisions?

Democrats and Republicans consistently wrestle over federal public school funding; some argue for more while other for less. Some education experts argue that a reallocation of present funding can solve some educational woes. Learn how resource reallocations can help improve education in this interesting blog.

In last week’s midterm elections, the GOP gained at least 60 seats in the House of Representatives and will have a voting majority beginning in January 2011. Republicans will nominate Rep. John Boehner as Speaker of the House and have locked up the votes to ensure he wins.

Pundits are already debating whether incoming Speaker Boehner or the President will have the upper-hand on education policy. In a recent article, The Washington Post suggested that Republicans and Democrats might very well continue to agree on tough-minded school accountability. It’s true that Rep. Boehner had a heavy hand in enacting No Child Left Behind in 2002. Even so, he will lead a caucus of Republicans who largely ran for office on a platform of diminishing the federal role in public education and “balk” at any increases in federal spending for schools.

In our soon-to-be released book Teaching 2030, 12 expert teachers and I write about by how reallocating resources to develop and utilize teacher leadership can build the kind of results-oriented teaching profession that students deserve. In nations where students perform at much higher academic levels than in the U.S., most administrators teach and many teachers have time to lead. In that kind of arrangement, schools are much closer to being “teacher-led,” and their policies and practices are much more likely to be enhanced because they are implemented by professionals who work with students on a daily basis.

In America, barely 50% of the $500 billion spent annually on public education is focused on instruction, and only about 43% of all of the nation’s education staff are classroom teachers. In high-performing nations, about 75% of the education resources spent go directly to instruction, and classroom teachers represent somewhere between 60 and 80% of all staff. As a result, teachers on average spend only about 35 percent of their time in direct instruction of students. The other 65 percent is devoted to preparing and critiquing lessons, observing other teachers, grading papers, tutoring students, and working with parents and colleagues — all of which help create conditions that allow teachers to teach effectively.

Looking at the facts, I believe we can get seriously better results by not just spending more money, but also spending it differently, investing in strategies that give our best teachers opportunities to lead outside of their classrooms — in their schools, districts and states — while continuing to teach students part of the time.

In 2011 we need to begin to blur the lines of distinction between those who lead schools and those who teach in them. As a new Congress takes control of federal education policy, we need to challenge politicians from both sides of the aisle to create a profession of teaching that neither party has been willing or able to do up until now.

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