Teach Strong: More of the Same, But with a Game Board
A group of 40 organizations, including many that are chiefly test-score-driven, corporate-reform- bent, is launching an effort to prompt the 2016 presidential contenders who are saying little about educational issues (as though they all met together and agreed, “Let’s just not talk much at all about American public education”) to agree to a nine-point plan to supposedly improve the teaching profession.
The campaign is called Teach Strong (#teachstrong) and is led by Center for American Progress (CAP). Amazingly, the teacher temp agency, Teach for America (TFA), is also in on this nine-point push, even though TFA president Elisa Villanueva Beard told Washington Post that TFA has no plans to modify its instant-oatmeal, five-week “great, very rigorous pretraining” of its turnstile teachers.
This coalition is a real corporate reform nest (e.g., Education Trust, Council of Chief State School Officers, National Council on Teacher Quality, Relay Graduate School of Education, The New Teacher Project, Education Post) plus education groups that have origins outside of corporate reform but who want (ahem) “a seat at the table” bad enough to go along with corporate reform, including both national teachers unions. (Click image to enlarge):
So, what is focus of the Teach Strong campaign? Why, its that same global competitiveness that gave us untested Common Core, but instead of focusing on *higher standards and next generation assessments,* this repackaged solution for Solving the International Test Score Lag is to reinvent the American Teacher and to do so with a catchy new corporate reform word: modernize:
We believe that all students, especially those from low-income families, deserve to be taught by great teachers. To accomplish this goal, we must modernize and elevate the teaching profession. This effort will require transforming the systems and policies that support teachers throughout all stages of their careers.
Our students are falling behind internationally. In an effort to catch up, we are asking more from our teachers than ever before. Yet we continue to provide our teachers with inadequate preparation, training, and pay.
Teacher preparation programs lack rigor and selectivity. Two-thirds of teacher preparation programs accept more candidates than they reject, and one-quarter accept almost every candidate who applies. Education majors are 50 percent more likely to graduate with honors than undergraduates in other majors.
Only five percent of teacher preparation programs in this country include the basic components of a quality student teaching experience.
The average starting teacher salary is $36,141, and average overall salary is $56,383. U.S. teacher salaries are only 60% of those of other college-educated workers in the country.
But there is a way to improve the system and achieve better outcomes for our teachers and our students. By establishing the conditions for success, we can create a virtuous cycle, making the teaching profession more attractive to talented new entrants and further elevating the profession.
Our goal is to make modernizing and elevating the teaching profession the top education policy issue of our time.
See, it’s all about *great teachers.* That’s why corporate reform outcast Michelle Rhee celebrated the Vergara ruling. Gotta have great teachers.
So, how will Teach Strong take us there?
Via nine nebulous steps that could easily accommodate heightened bureaucratic, test-score-driven-reform demands, including VAM and merit pay, even as it does nothing new for teacher due process rights:
- Identify and recruit more diverse teacher candidates with great potential to succeed, with a deliberate emphasis on diversifying the teacher workforce.
- Reimagine teacher preparation to make it more rooted in classroom practice and a professional knowledge base, with universal high standards for all candidates.
- Raise the bar for licensure so it is a meaningful measure of readiness to teach.
- Increase compensation in order to attract and reward teachers as professionals.
- Provide support for new teachers through induction or residency programs.
- Ensure tenure is a meaningful signal of professional accomplishment.
- Provide significantly more time, tools, and support for teachers to succeed, including through planning, collaboration, and development.
- Design professional learning to better address student and teacher needs, and to foster feedback and improvement.
- Create career pathways that give teachers opportunities to lead and grow professionally.
Most of the above is clouded enough for even TFA to fit. After all, TFAers are already “highly qualified.”
In case one needs a picture regarding putting these nine points into action, Teach Strong offers this game board infographic (click to enlarge):
CAP VP Carmel Martin believes the above will “get strong (not great?) teachers in every classroom,” and “should be the next big reform in education.”
Note that Martin did not call Teach Strong the next successful reform in education. Just big.
Martin made the above comment in the November 08, 2015, Washington Post article linked above. The article was written by Lyndsey Layton, who ends with this been-here-before observation:
Martin… said the [Teach Strong] campaign will include events in early presidential primary states and important swing states, as well as Twitter town halls, online events and social media outreach. The think tank expects to spend $1 million, she said. …
In 2008, three foundations launched “Ed in ’08,” a $60 million attempt to make education a top priority and get presidential hopefuls to address three issues: agreeing on national education standards, giving students more time and help to learn, and providing effective teachers in every classroom. After spending $24 million, with little result, they pulled the plug.
Perhaps what the Ed in ’08 campaign needed was a cool game board infographic.
We’ll see where this Teach Strong campaign takes us. I’m thinking, not far.