Depending on how you look at it, Statement by Secretary Ed Miguel Cardona that “we are closer to a reboot of education than ever before” is either a beacon of hope at the end of a long dark tunnel, or the opening of a new front in an increasingly polarized cultural war.
Because my job as CEO of the National Breakthrough Collaborative includes high school students with aspirations for college and college students aspiring to become advocates and teachers, I am always inclined to be optimistic. However, the problems we face in our public education system relate to the war in Ukraine in existential crises that do not allow me to sleep at night.
Here in mine native Florida, we argue about how to teach history and whether we can recognize the gender identity of students. Elsewhere – in Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Georgiaamong other things, in the courts and conference halls of school councils, the struggle for unfair results of school financing models based on property tax is flaring up.
However, what few politicians and parents are talking about is the difficult career path of teachers, on whom we will depend to resume teaching in our classrooms after the pandemic in the next few years, not a mention for the next generation.
Emphasis on teachers
“Teachers matter,” I quote definitively Rand’s study. They are key to inspiring our children’s passion for learning, to training the workforce to strengthen our economy and to creating leaders who are able to wisely navigate today’s and tomorrow’s global challenges.
The teaching workforce has been facing challenges for decades, p low pay, stressful working conditions, and the lack of training and support is gradually affecting the number of talented next-generation leaders, especially color ones, who are making careers in education. The pandemic has turned a delayed problem into a crisis as schools become strained in classrooms and educational schools continue to see a decline in student numbers. One high-profile and recent example comes from Teach for America, one of the nation’s largest color teacher trainers, which has amassed its smallest cohort in at least 15 years.
Last month, Cardon’s secretary lamented that he had not provided details to implement his vision of an “educational environment that focuses on students’ needs.” While this will require effort on different fronts, focusing on teachers can be the most reliable lever for creating student-centered classrooms.
Moreover, to achieve the same transformational goal as war with cancer or landing a man on the moon, we need a national strategy to counter the inequalities inherent in our local tax-funded education system, the inequalities that led to the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately harms colored students and students from low-income communities. Without this guide, we will find ourselves at a dead end with the same patterns that are responsible for the constant disparities between schools in affluent zip codes and schools in less affluent areas.
Decisions start with teachers
Teacher assessment is a systematic way to center students. In order to shift the needle, we need to go beyond what teachers need to do to address the root causes that require cultural and systemic change. Here are some things to look for:
- Understanding that teaching and learning are inherently interconnected, and that mutual relationships affect student and teacher success.
- Focus the joy of learning and make classes the way students and teachers want to be.
- Create an expanded teaching culture to protect children and encourage creativity that optimizes interaction.
- Creating cultural methods through ongoing mentoring by exceptional, experienced educators.
- Develop partnerships with quality teacher training programs for coordinated and supportive career paths.
These strategies have been rooted in district leaders ’efforts, often in partnership with university pedagogical programs, to“ grow their own ”teachers or lecturers for more immediate action. However, without a unifying and equitable strategy that eliminates systemic imbalances, we will not achieve the reboot promised by Secretary Cardon.
How can we do this without creating another mandate that strengthens the bureaucracy, stifles the creativity of educators and makes “what to do with teachers” another field of cultural battle – without actually focusing on the needs of students?
One possible answer is to invest in more inclusive partnerships. Funding from both public and private sources could ensure that local efforts to expand the circle of teachers and improve the profession go beyond institutional players by promoting programs that already have the time-tested support of parents, teachers and students. Lighten the burden on congested school administrators by opening a tent to include community organizations with built-in credibility with multiracial and pluralistic districts.
Let’s imagine funders, school districts, university and alternative teacher education programs collaborating on the continuum of teacher development, catalyzing a reboot that has taken root in the systemic communication of greatest impact: teachers.
Finally, we need to calibrate our market economy – as we did nurses and programmers – to properly evaluate the work of teachers by increasing salaries, providing scholarships and educational credits for experiential learning, and supporting the early careers needed to pave a more positive path to long-term professional growth.
While we cannot ignore the global challenges of the moment, we must recognize that the threat within the country also persists. Our national reboot of the education system, which has not produced too many students for too long, is long overdue. The human capital needed to reduce the risk to our own children and grandchildren is within our borders. We must hurry to change the course of public education now, jointly mobilizing all the living resources we have.