Professionalizing Teaching: An Educator’s Perspective

Professionalizing Teaching: An Educator’s Perspective

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 4.08.59 PMKatherine Bassett, Executive Director, National Network of State Teachers of the Year

In the last five years, there has been a great deal of interest in what constitutes effective teaching. States and school districts across the country are implementing new teacher evaluation systems with the goal of helping teachers improve their practice and boost student achievement.

Yet, improving evaluation is just one piece of a much bigger puzzle: How can we attract and retain highly effective teachers for all students? The simple fact is that nearly half of all new teachers leave the profession by their fifth year, and we are now seeing some of our most experienced and recognized teachers exiting our nation’s classrooms for opportunities that provide more substantive leadership experiences.

In our new white paper, the National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY) outlines five key structures that have the potential to transform teaching and create a profession that attracts, develops, and retains highly effective teachers.

One of the most impactful of these structures is professional career continuums. While most professions have career advancement mechanisms, such as career ladders or lattices in place to provide career pathways for practitioners, education does not. Unless willing to leave the classroom and enter administration, there are few avenues for teacher advancement within the profession.

Teachers want and need both formal and informal, widely available options to assume leadership roles within a school and to be recognized for their contributions. While these opportunities benefit teachers and have the potential to improve their job satisfaction, they have reciprocal benefits as well. Schools where we are leading peers and mentoring less experienced teachers tend to have higher retention rates, a factor that positively affects student learning. And, increased job satisfaction also results in greater retention, directly impacting student learning.

A number of states, and some districts, are in the process now of establishing continuums of professional practice that clearly lay out the teacher development stages from novice to expert. In these models, it is possible for teachers to advance while staying in the classroom, and to perform as leaders in various capacities.

Our report features the experiences of five State Teachers of the Year, including Megan Allen, the 2010 Florida State Teacher of the Year. Megan’s school district partnered with the Center for Teaching Quality and she worked last year in a hybrid role as a “teacherpreneur.” In the morning, she taught fifth grade at Shaw Elementary School in Tampa, Florida. In the afternoon, she focused on efforts to support, advocate for, and elevate teacher leadership in order to create stronger public schools. She summed up her experience, concluding:

“We need to push our thinking beyond the traditional career ladder and create more hybrid roles and options. Our teacher leaders need the time and space to lead the transformation of education in a way that does not negatively impact their students or just pile more on top of an already overflowing plate. Hybrid roles will allow educators to have a career lattice that will impact both the profession and the students. Multiple career options will help attract and retain intelligent and hard-working educators. It will help fill the leadership yearnings they have, giving them the ability to continue their drive to have impact reaching beyond the classroom walls.”

Like other professionals, teachers seek to grow, develop, and advance in our careers. We need new models that provide teachers with leadership opportunities while maintaining our role in the classroom. NNSTOY is partnering with the Center for Educator Effectiveness at Pearson and Public Impact to review continuum models in teaching and other professions. Our intention is to define recommendations for what teaching continuums might look like, and to pilot and field test such continuums in schools.

To learn more about the other four structures and our work, visit the NNSTOY website and download the full white paper, Re-Imagining Teaching: Five Structures to Transform the Profession.

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