Smart, Skilled, and Striving

A new CAP report proposes ways to elevate the teaching profession.

A New CAP Report Proposes Ways To Elevate The Teaching Profession

The 21st century global economy requires all students to graduate ready for the challenges of college and career. And as a result, we demand more from teachers each and every day. Unfortunately, the ways in which school systems have been designed to train, support, and develop teachers have not kept pace with the tectonic shifts in teachers’ daily realities, making it difficult for them to succeed. In order to improve teaching and learning in the United States and keep up with changing demands on students, teachers, and schools, policymakers and education officials must make systemic changes to all aspects of the teaching profession.

While no one policy fix will singlehandedly transform the teaching profession, comprehensive change will be critical for the future of the teacher workforce and our nation’s students. A new report from the Center for American Progress lays out a series of policy recommendations aimed at overhauling the teacher career continuum, beginning with recruitment and selection into teacher preparation programs and continuing on to new teacher training and support, professional development, compensation, and opportunities for career advancement. Here are just a few of the report’s many proposals:

  • Raise teacher compensation to professional levels. Teacher salaries are currently 60 percent of those of other workers with college degrees. In fact, the top 25 hedge fund managers make more than all 158,000 kindergarten teachers in the country. Teachers should not have to perform their jobs as vocations, and they should receive salaries commensurate with other professions requiring comparable education.
  • Invest in new teachers by supporting their professional growth early on. To improve the working conditions for beginning teachers, states should require districts to provide a more gradual on-ramp to a full-time teaching experience by offering high-quality induction programs, intensive coaching and mentoring, co-teaching models and experiences, teacher residency programs, and/or a reduced course load for beginning teachers. Just as new doctors receives support and continued training through residency programs, new teachers need high-quality induction programs and continued training from experienced and effective peers.
  • Ensure that teacher preparation programs select teacher candidates carefully and purposefully. In order to cultivate the best teacher workforce possible, teacher preparation programs must address the lack of selectivity fueling the false perception that teaching is not a career that will challenge and reward top students. This change must be made in conjunction with efforts to recruit excellent teaching candidates from diverse backgrounds.
  • Redesigning school schedules to support improvements in teacher practice. Following the models of high-performing nations, U.S. school districts should thoughtfully increase the amount of time teachers have available to improve their practice—time that could be spent observing highly effective teachers, collaborating and planning with colleagues, coaching, mentoring, and engaging in other forms of professional learning.

BOTTOM LINE: It’s time to start treating teachers as professionals. Our current school system fails to provide teachers with the support they need to succeed. But systemic change can set in motion a virtuous cycle by which better training and working conditions enhance the experience of being a teacher, attract more people into the profession, and elevate the status of teachers overall, thereby improving the profession.

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