5. Align teacher development and evaluation to the Common Core State Standards.
MET data show that most teachers are a long way from confidently handling the instructional shifts necessary to meet the Common Core State Standards. For example, while most teachers are adept at classroom management skills, teachers have long been taught to fit a lot of material in a short period of time, not to ask high-level questions or to engage students in rigorous discussions.
Luckily, this is also an area with huge, untapped potential. For example, Teach Live, developed by the University of Central Florida, enables teachers to practice new techniques in simulated classroom environments before trying them with real students. Tutor.com provides teachers with individualized, online coaching on how to teach concepts. And the AFT, with Britain’s TES Connect, has developed “Share My Lesson,” an online community for U.S. teachers to collaborate and share teaching resources and innovative ideas, with a significant emphasis on resources to guide teachers in implementing the Common Core.
Of course, school districts must also provide continuous and relevant professional development and growth for teachers that address their skills, knowledge, and needs.
6. Adjust the system over time based on new evidence, innovations, and feedback.
It’s essential that states and school systems measure the extent to which new teacher development and evaluation systems are being implemented with fidelity, meeting their original purposes without creating unintended negative consequences. We fully anticipate the need to continuously update measures of effective teaching and the best ways to use them, as more research and experience become available.
Teacher development and evaluation must be a vehicle to achieve the mission of public schooling. And that mission must evolve from an outmoded model of education that exists in too many places to a new paradigm that will prepare students for life, college, and career. Teachers must have a system of professional growth that reflects the sophistication and importance of their work, and they must have a meaningful voice in that system. Just as we have high expectations for teachers, we must also for leaders. Officials must invest in these systems—it is more important to do it right than to do it cheap. And, lest anyone expect that teachers, single-handedly, can save public education, we must also focus on the accountability and responsibility that rest with school and government leaders to ensure that students and teachers have the opportunities and supports they need to succeed.
Vicki Phillips is the director of education programs for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Randi Weingarten is president of the American Federation of Teachers.