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NCTAF Issues Call to Collective Action & Releases Report
Commission Highlights Need to Reorganize Schools Around a New Vision for Teaching & Learning
By: Nat'l Commission on Teaching & America's Future
NCTAF seeks to help educators capitalize on this time when policy and practice are shifting toward more engaging and relevant teaching and learning for all students. The report lays out a new vision for teaching and learning where:
• teachers will have more agency and new roles and leadership opportunities and will, in turn, be supported by a system of aligned resources and supports; and
• these efforts will be supported by a new shared accountability that encourages collaboration, use of data within a context of continuous improvement, and teacher-led professional learning.
The Commission also issued a call to collective action to mobilize policymakers, teachers, parents, students, and the broader community around this new vision.
What Matters Now makes a compelling case for changes to the current education system in order to educate all students well. By documenting systemic issues, such as teacher turnover and a burgeoning student achievement gap, the Commission points out that there is new knowledge and research that supports developing a system that is more flexible, innovative, and customized.
"To prepare our students for the opportunities and challenges of the 21st century, we must design our schools to energize and excite our students regarding the importance of learning. This calls for in-depth, collaborative teaching in healthy, safe, and sustainable schools organized for success – both in terms of architectural design and curricular engagement,"
With the enactment of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the Commission believes this is a prime opportunity to think differently about how schools are organized, how accountability is structured and teachers are evaluated and supported, and how to ensure that all students experience great teaching and learning.
"NCTAF started this conversation 20 years ago with the release of What Matters Most: Teaching for America's Future, when we challenged the nation to provide competent, caring, and qualified teaching for every student. Significant changes have been made, but they are uneven at best," said Ted Sanders, Co-chair of NCTAF and a former Deputy Secretary of the U. S. Department of Education under President George H.W. Bush. "Under ESSA, we have this tremendous opportunity to reorganize schools in ways that benefit all students and teachers."
The report indicates that a new system for teaching and learning must be aligned in support of a new organization of teaching in which teachers have time to collaborate and have the collective authority to manage resources for their own learning. In addition, policy and community structures should be coordinated to enrich, deepen, and personalize student learning.
"In the report, we make a significant point about investing in the 'human factor.' For far too long, many districts and states have neglected to provide teachers with the supports they need to be successful with all students," said Melinda George, President of NCTAF. "We know what it takes to cultivate engaging learning environments, and we are challenging every school system around the country to recognize teaching as the primary engine driving improvement. We encourage a new compact for teaching and learning that asks more of teachers in growing in the profession and meeting the needs of their students, while also supporting teaching through aligned resources and supports."
The Commission has identified key conditions at both the school level and the systemic level that are required for great teaching to flourish.
• New Teaching Dynamics – Skillful, effective teaching requires that teachers have content and pedagogical knowledge; social-emotional competencies to build caring, respectful relationships in their classrooms; and a commitment to improving their own practice and to professional collaboration that leads to improved learning by both teachers and students.
• A Commitment to Collaboration and Growth – Teachers must be in a system that supports continuous development and growth. If we want students to develop the deeper learning skills of critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creative problem solving, then this must be the type of professional learning that teachers experience too.
• Modern Roles and Structures – As teachers develop into expert educators, it is incumbent upon school leaders to have structures that allow teachers to contribute to the classroom as well as their colleagues.
Supporting these shifts requires deliberate and careful alignment of the systems that recruit and prepare new teachers, support them as they develop, and provide them with feedback and resources as they grow professionally.
Recommendations – The Way Forward
In order to move all schools in this new direction, the report lays out six recommendations to achieve this vision.
• Policymakers should establish and broadly communicate a new compact with teachers.
• Every state should establish a Commission on Teaching, Learning, and the State's Future.
• States and districts should codify and track whether all schools are "organized for success."
• Teacher preparation should be more relevant and clinically based.
• States should support all new teachers with multi-year induction and high-quality mentoring.
• Education leaders should evaluate ALL professional learning for responsiveness and effectiveness.
For more information, visit www.nctaf.org.