The Principal's Principles

A Middle School Principal, striving to make the world a better place, one day at a time.

Education Policy, Let’s Change the Conversation

As the 2012 presidential campaign draws near, campaing staffs on both sides are working hard to craft statements and position papers about education policy. “Class-size” will be thrown around as a buzzword, as will charter schools, choice, accountability, testing, and curriculum.There will be calls for local control and more rigor.

We know is that the biggest contributor to student success is teacher quality. The way quality teachers manage resources is what makes funding and class-size matter. We know the great teachers have a lifetime impact on learners, and are often cited as a key figure in the success of adults.However, education policy centers on issues of funding, class-size, and curriculum. The common core federal grants and issues related to school choice will come up regularly during the campaign. But the most important question, probably won’t be asked

“Mr. President and Governor Romney, what will you do to recruit and retain high-quality teachers for our classrooms?”

This question is far more important then positions on school choice or class-size. Quality schools require quality teachers. Teachers with high literacy aptitude, the ability to build great relationships teachers, to be creative teachers and those with a willingness to differentiate and allow students to have some choices. Quality teachers empower students to take risks and provide a safe environment where they can grow.

Our candidates will say that our results are quite what they should be or that while educators work hard, we need to improve. They’ll talk about rigorous curriculum, testing, and yes even things like class-size. What they need to focus on is how schools can retain and hire high-quality teachers.

How do we retain our great teachers? We give them a seat at the table we make policy and we develop accountability measures with them not for them and we allow them to do their job. High-quality teachers don’t enter the profession for merit pay for high wages, and they don’t fear accountability. They crave the respect they deserve for being the professionals they are.

How do we recruit high quality teachers? Let’s be intentional and recruit. Let’s offer tuition subsidies to students who apply and are accepted to schools of education with a rigorous standards and quality teacher education programs. Let’s have a real conversation about making becoming a teacher similar to becoming a doctor with stipends and invest money to reduce the debt new teachers carry because of student loans. Let’s build “lab schools” like “teaching hospitals” where teachers can hold their craft and work together and learn the profession.

Let’s stop having a national conversation about curriculum, testing, and class-size. Let’s start having a conversation about recruiting and retaining high-quality teachers. Let’s invest our finances in these ideas.

During campaign stops, television interviews, townhall meetings, and formal debates the President and Governor Romney will look into the camera, and talk about their appreciation for education and then tell a story about a teacher that impacted them. The question for these two men should be “how do you take those stories to scale? How do you make sure that we bring it bring the brightest and best and retain the brightest invest in our classrooms?”

Let’s change the national conversation.

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