Education professionals testifying recently before the Senate Committee on Health Education Labor and Pensions said that increased teacher training and support are essential elements to the upcoming reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
“It is often said that great teachers are not born, they are made,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “Despite the frequency with which it is said, our nation’s approach to teacher quality suggests that we believe the converse is true—that great teachers are born fully prepared for the role. The truth of the matter is that good teaching is an art built around a firm foundation. We must begin by making sure teachers receive good preparation in the schools that they attend.”
The hearing focused on highlighting targeted methods in improving the recruitment, preparation, retention, and evaluation of teachers. Chief among the recommendations offered were: resources for more professional development, reinventing the evaluation process, productive engagement of new teachers, and more collaboration with higher education institutions that train teachers.
Half of American teachers leave the profession within their first five years, according to research from the National Education Association. Experts says lack of access to mentors, few opportunities for leadership roles, and low compensation contribute to the exodus. Teachers who do stay enjoy few resources to help them to meet their potential.
Ellen Moir of the New Teacher Center said that with the demand for teachers to exceed 1.5 million over the next decade, a structure is needed to engage new educators so that good teachers are encouraged to stay in the profession.
The witnesses also advocated for a change in the evaluation process that goes beyond identifying success and failure to provide information that can be used to diagnose problems, train teachers, and tailor instruction to student needs.
“This reauthorization of ESEA presents an opportunity to improve teacher development and evaluation programs; to appropriately address school environment issues that limit efforts to attract teachers to hard-to-staff schools and impede teaching and learning; and to help narrow the achievement gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students,” said Weingarten. “ESEA should also help ensure that teachers have the tools, time and trust they need to succeed, including offering teachers and students an environment that sets everyone up for success.”