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New Vision for Teacher Professionalism
posted by: Melissa | February 02, 2016, 03:59 PM   


There’s an interesting discussion going on among those interested in elevating the teaching profession.  What would a fully professional teaching force look like and what would it take to get there?  Advocacy groups on all sides have weighed in and buzz words and phrases often bandied about include “performance pay,” “career ladder,” and “autonomy,” but even the exact meaning of those words is often debated.


The latest entrant into the field is the Center for American Progress, which released a report last month that outlined their vision for teacher professionalism.  Although typically a left-leaning organization, there is much in the report that their conservative counterparts can agree on.


The report starts by outlining the stumbling blocks to teacher professionalism.  Many of these are the well-recognized standards of a diverse student body and ever-changing demands.  Also included is the current negative perception of the teaching force as being unskilled yet demanding.  There is also a mention of the structure of the typical school day which reinforces an outdated model of teaching.  Outdated and indicative of factory-model schooling, school day structure is often controlled by teacher union contracts that allow for little flexibility.


The report then delves into the changes that the Center for American Progress would like to see happen.  These include:

  • More selectivity in teacher training programs;
  • Higher quality teacher training programs with longer and more frequent clinical experiences;
  • Improving licensure exams;
  • Raising teacher pay, while at the same time including elements of performance pay;
  • Supporting professional growth for new teachers;
  • Greater flexibility in school schedules;
  • Greater alignment with professional development and student needs;
  • More opportunities for teacher leadership;
  • Higher bars for tenure and retention;
  • Training school leaders to support teachers;


If none of these recommendations sound revolutionary, it’s because they’re not.  These ideas have been around for years and all of them are achievable in the near future, but these are not the end goal.  The end goal is the vision for what a professional teaching force looks like.


A true vision for professionalism in teaching centers around a highly-trained, highly-qualified teaching force who are involved both in pedagogical research and reform.  This starts in undergraduate work which takes place at universities who pick only from the best and brightest, not from those looking for an easy career.  The training will have higher demands on the students including clinical and residency portions as well as deep and thorough subject-matter understanding – even at the elementary level.  These teachers will be well compensated, but this compensation will vary depending on the skill of the teacher.  As teachers increase their abilities, they’ll be able to move up a career path by taking on more responsibilities, including managing other teachers.  The more responsibility they take on and the more skill they demonstrate, the higher they’ll be paid.  There will also be higher pay in areas where there is greater demand, such as special education or schools serving students lower in socio-economic status.  School days will be more flexible and allow teachers more time to work on improvement, especially when they’re just starting out when they’ll have fewer and less demanding courses under their care.


You can read the entire report on the Center for American Progress’s website.


What do you think about this vision for the teaching profession?  Does it match what you would like to see?
Comment below.


Comments (1)Add Comment
New governance and accountability
written by Jim (Valley Stream), February 26, 2016

I don't see on the list two things that will increase teacher longevity and job satisfaction.

New Governance:

School governance needs to change to something more in line with our Constitutional government.
Individual schools need to be run by the principals, teachers, and parents in partnership, not just by the "enlightened despots" that have absolute control over them. Teachers in collaboration with school administrators should be like the legislative branch of our congress, creating a governing charter (Constitution) for how their school should be run. Teachers and administrators in partnership should be involved in all planning decisions. Teachers in most schools today are simply TOLD what to do, when to do things, and how. (Totalitarianism doesn't work for nations, doesn't work for schools either)
Principals should run the schools on a day to day basis like our chief executives in government. They should also serve with the consent of the people in the community.
Principals should serve four year terms and be elected by the parents who live in the community. This will keep them focused on the needs of the students and teachers rather than on their personal ambitions.
This way you can terminate bad principals. Cronyism and patronage are just too formidable within the system today.
To remove incompeant teachers, a review panel of teachers and administrators along with the local school board should step in and judge the situation.


Everyone should be accountable for what goes on in a school building.
Administrators--accountable through the power sharing described above and by election to unlimited terms of office (four years at a time)
Teachers-- Since teachers have already been declared qualified for what they do by possessing a license and a college degree, they should only be dismissed through malpractice as determined by the above mentioned structure or some evidence of gross misconduct. Unions exist mainly to pander to their membership and pursue their social agenda. Teachers, if presented with what needs to be done and given the flexibility to do their jobs, will be empowered to accomplish great things.
If they break the rules, they should suffer consequences. Many schools will not enforce most of their rules because the people that run them seek to cover up the bad things going on. This frustrates many of the teachers, students, and parents.
If their children violate school policies, the parents should be consulted and involved in the plan to help guide the students.

If we make progress toward any of this, wouldn't we empower teachers, students, parents, and even administrators?

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