What Are We doing, When We Set Up a Small Group To Tell The Rest of Us What We Must Do?
What is The Teaching Commission?
Teaching at Risk: Blue-Ribbon Panel Calls for Overhaul of Teacher Education and Compensation to Recruit and Retain Talent in America's Public Schools
WASHINGTON, DC - January 14, 2004 - The Teaching Commission, a blue-ribbon panel of 19 leaders in government, business, philanthropy, and education, today announced a strategy to fundamentally upgrade teaching as a profession by changing the way teachers come into the field, as well as the way they are trained, assessed, supported, and compensated.
"The quality of teachers in our schools affects every aspect of our society, from jobs to national security," said Louis V. Gerstner, Jr., former chairman of IBM and chairman of The Teaching Commission. "The nation will not continue to lead or to create new jobs if we persist in viewing teaching-the profession that makes all other professions possible-as a second-rate occupation."
While praising the work of the nation's many dedicated teachers, The Teaching Commission report, Teaching at Risk: A Call to Action, points out that the current system fails both teachers and students. Far too many students, for example, are "taught" math by teachers who don't have a major or minor in that subject, or science by teachers who have not sufficiently demonstrated content knowledge in that area. Worse still, poor and minority students, who are often the most academically needy, tend to get the least experienced or capable teachers.
Meanwhile, the most effective teachers-those who lead, who successfully raise student achievement, and who have expertise in their subject matter-are compensated via an antiquated, 80-year-old system that pays them the same as their least effective colleagues. "A system that does not reward excellence cannot inspire it," the report says.
Equally significant, even with new federal legislation requiring that all teachers be "highly qualified" by the 2004-2005 school year, some states are actively choosing to disregard the teacher quality crisis. The report notes that many states are simply lowering the bar and overlooking the objective of the law, which is to raise student achievement for all students.
"These systemic problems prevent teachers from achieving their goals and mire educators and their students in the quicksand of the status quo," the report concludes.
"Given these challenges, it is no surprise that half of all new teachers quit after a few years, and that our students are not achieving as much as we'd like," said Gerstner.
The bipartisan Commission comprises former elected officials, corporate CEOs, school leaders, a teachers-union president, and leaders of philanthropy and higher-education institutions. (See list of members attached.)
"What's remarkable is that these individuals unanimously came together to develop a powerful agenda for improvement that is fair to teachers and supportive of national priorities for raising student achievement," notes former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley. "The Commission was careful to balance calls for greater accountability for teachers with the resources, help, and leadership support they need to be successful in the classroom."
The Commission's report offers four closely linked strategies to remedy the problems in the field, including:
Compensating Teachers More Effectively. To help lure more good teachers into the classroom and encourage the best teachers to stay, the Commission calls for pay hikes for all teachers and for teacher compensation to be linked to student performance. The Commission also advocates developing career advancement structures to raise pay for master and mentor teachers, and offering premium pay for teaching in challenging neighborhoods and in subjects with teacher shortages.
The report calls for creating fair systems and processes that link teacher pay to what matters most-increased student performance. The Commission urges schools to rate teacher performance using a variety of techniques including "value-added" methods that measure how individual teachers influence learning for each child. The value-added approach takes into consideration students' past performance and eliminates factors that regularly excuse low student performance, such as poverty or family background.
Bolstering Accountability in Teacher Education. The Commission calls on college and university presidents to revamp teacher education programs and make teacher quality a priority. "Traditionally, college and university presidents have taken limited responsibility for teacher education programs, even as their institutions have benefited from the significant revenues they generate," the report says.
The Commission urges college leaders to raise standards for entry into these programs, to beef up the academic content of teacher training programs while also ensuring a connection to real practice, and to promote teaching as an exemplary career path for many more of their top students. It urges the federal government to "tie continued funding of teacher education programs to measures of success for graduates of these programs," and emphasizes that "institutions that do not meet acceptable standards of performance should no longer continue to receive federal funding."
Strengthening State Teacher Licensing and Certification Requirements. The report calls on state leaders to raise the passing scores required on current certification exams and to ensure that every prospective teacher passes a rigorous test of both content and essential skills. The Commission also calls on states to replace low-level basic competency tests with challenging exams that measure verbal ability and content knowledge at an appropriately high level. In addition, in order to make the profession more attractive to a wide range of qualified candidates, it calls for streamlining the cumbersome bureaucracy that surrounds teacher licensure.
Empowering School Leaders as CEOs. The report points out that school districts need to give principals ultimate say over personnel decisions. In order to develop a culture of excellence, principals, in turn, must provide teachers with more opportunities to become decision makers and to benefit from mentoring and ongoing professional development known to improve classroom instruction, the report says.
How Big an Investment?
The Commission estimates that it would cost about $30 billion-less than a tenth of what the nation already invests in education-to give all teachers a 10 percent raise, and the top half of all teachers a 30 percent incentive increase.
"These costs are significant, but the nation has always stepped forward to do what is necessary to address our top priorities, from cutting the price of prescription drugs for seniors to strengthening homeland security," Gerstner said.
As economist Eric Hanushek points out, investing in teaching to address student achievement problems will pay for itself. Hanushek estimates that significant improvements in education over a 20-year period could lead to as much as a 4 percent addition to the Gross Domestic Product. In today's terms, that would be over $400 billion, an amount that rivals total current expenditure on K-12 public education.
The Commission's proposal would provide a long-missing financial incentive for the nation's most talented and ambitious college graduates to consider teaching as a real career, provide opportunities for them to take leadership roles, and offer reasons beyond the reward of teaching for them to stay in the field.
"The Teaching Commission will not measure its success by what it recommends. Its effectiveness will be determined by its ability to bring these ideas to life at the federal, state, and local levels," Gerstner says.
The Commission will build partnerships with states, school districts, education organizations, policy groups, and college leaders to implement its agenda.
The Teaching Commission is a three-year effort funded by private donations and headquartered in New York City at the CUNY Graduate Center in Manhattan.
A small group of people have decided that we must have "excellent" teachers in every classroom, and then we will have high performance. They have decided that they will force the implementation of their policy, and if a school district does not go along, they suggest taking away federal funding. Is this the end of individual creativity, and what is a "good" teacher?