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Education-- Moving Past Excuses: What Excellence & Equity Require

Barnett Berry is the President of The Center for Teaching Quality.  I am a member of one of its organizations, the Teacher Leaders Network.  About a month ago Barnett posted a piece titled Moving Past Excuses: What Excellence & Equity Require.  It was written in the aftermath of news about the cheating scandals in Atlanta and Washington DC, and several other things about education that hit the news in the same time frame.

Barnett Berry has long been an advocate of a broader role for our more gifted and effective teachers, one where they could exercise leadership without having to leave the classroom.  As it says on the Teacher Leaders webpage,  

TLN is a network of active communities populated by highly accomplished teacher leaders from across the nation who are dedicated to student success and the transformation of teaching into a true profession.

Because I want you to read Barnett's post, I am, below the fold, going to offer several paragraphs and then a few comments of my own.  I hope you will continue reading, and perhaps consider passing on to other either the link to this diary or the link to Berry's post.


The three concluding paragraphs from Barnett Berry's post of July 11:  

Who better to help ensure educational equity than our most accomplished teachers? Why not structure their work (and workdays) to strategically deploy their expertise? Our best teachers could provide targeted intervention for the children and families who would most benefit from their experience and knowledge. They could help develop, staff, and assess high-quality early childhood programs. They could work with community partners to ensure all children have access to the academic, emotional, and psychological support they need to succeed.

Too often, we shuffle our best teachers into full-time administrative roles, pulling them away from the children who need them most. Too often, we pile “reforms” on teachers without inviting them (and supporting them) to take on meaningful roles in solutions. And too often, America’s schools fail our least advantaged students and families.

Let’s drop the excuses. Let’s not kid ourselves about silver-bullet solutions. Let’s do the difficult work. And let’s welcome teacher leaders as partners in making it happen.

There are different ways we can take better advantage of the talent of our teachers without forcing them to completely leave the classroom.   To see some of the ways this is possible I strongly suggest reading the book Teaching 2030 (about which I wrote here - and full disclosure:  while not an author I am quoted in the book several times).  Co-written by Berry and a number of outstanding teachers (many of whom are friends and professional colleagues), it  provides an exploration of how we can redefine the role of teacher in different hybrid fashions, some of which will allow teachers to benefit from the expertise by becoming "teacherpreneurs."  That is one place people can start.

Schools and school systems can do things even without complete redefinition of the occupation.  Invite teachers to serve on policy committees.  In my district of almost 130,000 students, I am one of two teachers on the panel which is setting up how, to meet the requirements of Race to the Top, we will tie teacher evaluation to student assessment.  In some districts teachers are involved in the hiring and/or the evaluation of other teachers.   Clearly mentoring of beginning and/or struggling teachers is another role that can easily be arranged, although one needs to be careful not to make these additional responsibilities without some additional compensation.  In my service on that panel I am provided a substitute for the one class I have to miss in order to fulfill my responsibilities, which take place during my ordinary working hours.  

Teachers are quite capable of serving in a number of productive capacities outside of their individual classrooms and their individual schools.  That is one reason the U. S. Department of Education each year has a number of Teacher Ambassador Fellows, some of whom work full-time in the department for an academic year, others of whom remain classroom-based with occasional visits to the Department's headquarters.  Last year two of the latter were fellow members of the Teacher Leaders Network.

I will not attempt to offer all the possible ways we can take advantage of the knowledge, skill, and insight of our teachers.  Many of us our passionate about our work, and concerned for the future of public education.  That is why there were teachers at the heart of organizing and supporting the recent Save Our Schools March and National Call To Action in Washington DC last month.  That is why some of us are still involved in keeping the momentum from that event, in the attempt to ensure the voices of teachers -  and of parents and communities - are included as we decided how we are going to reshape and govern our schools.  

Read Barnett Berry's piece.

Pass the link for it - and/or for this posting - on to others.

We are starting another school year.  I have been in my classroom the past 4 days.  Today is free, and Monday i get students.  Some teachers are already instructing, others will begin soon enough.

Let's not go forward another year without taking advantage of the incredible resource represented by the knowledge and skill of our teachers.


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Kenneth J. Bernstein

Kenneth J. Bernstein is now proudly 64 years young, teacher in DC metro area, Quaker liberal - and still passionate about learning with his students (http://teach...