Advancing the Profession

Posted on December 12, 2013 by Katherine Bassett and Kathy McKnight

Katherine BassettTeaching is rocket science. Research tells us that in any profession it takes 10 years to become a true expert.  Unfortunately, far too many teachers leave the field before they reach that point. To retain teachers, some states and school districts over the past 40 or more years experimented with making teaching more like other licensed professions by providing  more opportunities for advancement, creating a variety of roles, and offering them greater responsibilities and increases in compensation to match.

But, as we and our co-authors note in a new report to be released today, most of these efforts have been scattered and brief and ended when money or the support of leaders evaporated. Our report is called “Creating Sustainable Teacher Career Pathways: a 21st Century Imperative” and, in it, we note that while many states and districts are working on these issues, only two states and the District of Columbia now have comprehensive teacher career initiatives in place.

The report was produced jointly by Pearson’s Research & Innovation Network and the National Network of State Teachers of the Year.

It’s troubling that our students are being served by “a teaching force that threatens to become a revolving door of itinerant workers,” according to a report by Teach Plus, the organization that advocates giving teachers more influence of education policy. It’s especially troubling at a time when we’re asking our schools to close significant achievement gaps by student race and socioeconomic status while also preparing all students to compete in a competitive global economy that values knowledge and thinking skills.

It’s also imperative that we make teaching a viable career as our teaching population is shifting. By 2020, half of the nation’s teachers will be Generation Y-ers. These younger teachers expect flexibility in the workplace, the chance to collaborate with peers, a variety of roles they can take on and compensation systems that recognize performance and differing levels of responsibility.  We project that when these exist they improve recruitment and retention of talented educators.

In the report we survey all 50 states’ thinking on building career pathways. We examine the lessons from other licensed professions that can be applied to teaching. We look at what education systems in countries around the world do in this regard, focusing on those where students are outperforming U.S. students on international comparisons. And we conclude with preliminary recommendations for what should be done at the local, state and federal levels to achieve these goals.

We acknowledge that the challenges that stand in the way of restructuring teaching can seem daunting. But we also know that we must do more to retain excellent teachers if we expect our schools and students to be competitive in the global economy of the 21st century and that the returns from investing in sustainable teacher career pathways can be incalculable.

- See more at: http://nnstoy.org/our-work/publications/

Katherine Bassett is NNSTOY’s Executive Director and New Jersey States Teacher of the Year 2000. She has deep experience in working with standards, having facilitated the work of a consortium to develop model standards for teacher leadership. Harboring a strong interest in continuums of professional practice, Bassett has also worked with six states to develop a common continuum of professional practice and to envision a transformed education system in which such a continuum would thrive.

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