In the current education system, the processes that influence teaching and leading are frequently ineffective, disconnected, and undermine a collective ability to support and sustain excellence. This inefficiency depletes resources from our schools. We believe that by organizing the key elements of the system to align with one another, using a research-based, field-tested core of professional knowledge, we can create a more efficient, effective system to better support high-quality teaching and educational leadership. This new approach will have a transformational impact on education and provide every child with the opportunity to receive a high quality education, which is critical for the future success of our Commonwealth and our society at large.
The expertise required for effective teaching and leading are far more complex than has been generally understood to date. Large portions of this knowledge base are missing from the processes listed above. Our reform efforts are oriented toward strengthening and aligning these processes with a deep and detailed understanding of the common core of professional knowledge about teaching and learning. The WGEE believes strongly that rigorous standards and shared accountability are critical to ensuring educator excellence and high levels of student learning. Our work on this process will ensure that all teachers meet high standards and that all students achieve at their fullest potential.
Why is Comprehensive Educator Quality Reform Necessary?
Despite progress in improving student learning since Education Reform began in 1993, there are still too many students who aren’t succeeding. Research shows conclusively that the most effective way to improve student achievement is to improve the quality of teaching and school leadership. But Massachusetts is not systemically ensuring that educators adhere to rigorous standards and receive the training, support, and accountability needed.
Massachusetts is wasting millions of dollars as teachers leave the profession. Right now, Massachusetts doesn’t have a comprehensive system to ensure teachers get the training and support they need, leading more than half of new teachers in cities to leave the profession within five years and wasting millions of the Commonwealth’s dollars in turnover costs. It’s no way to run a business—or a school system.
What Changes Does the Working Group Call For?
The WGEE advocates infusing professional knowledge into each of the ten aspects of the personnel pipeline at the state, district, and local levels:
- Preparation —Preparation programs must ensure educators demonstrate entry-level proficiency of professional standards through performance assessments.
- Licensure –The state’s licensure system must guarantee entry-level proficiency.
- Recruitment, Hiring, and Placement –School and district policies for recruitment, hiring and placement must ensure that assignments are successfully filled by teachers with the requisite expertise.
- Comprehensive Induction –All novice teachers and leaders must receive orientation with mentoring and ongoing support throughout first three years.
- Professional Development –Schools and districts must provide sustained professional learning opportunities for educators at all stages of their career.
- Supervision and Evaluation –Schools must provide growth-oriented supervision and hold educators accountable through evaluation and the possibility of expedited dismissal.
- Relicensure –The state’s relicensure system must encourage and guarantee educators’ ongoing professional learning.
- Teacher Leadership –Schools and districts must provide career advancement opportunities that build capacity in schools.
- Organizational Structure – Develops and nurtures internal mechanisms for ongoing team learning and the growth of professional community.
- Adult Professional Culture – Cultivates a professional work place characterized by honest, open communication, continuous improvement, joint responsibility for student learning, and data-based decision making.
The WGEE believes that coordinating these processes will 1) create teacher leadership roles that allow good teachers to share their expertise and advance professionally without forcing them to move into administration; and 2) expedite dismissal of teachers who are not succeeding in the classroom after receiving assistance.
What Should Teachers Be Responsible for Knowing?
Studies have shown that in addition to knowing their subject matter, teachers in today’s classrooms must have expertise in a variety of areas. The Working Group advocates that teachers’ work with students will be informed by their knowledge of:
- Students and their diverse learning needs
- Child development and cognitive science
- Student motivation
- Content-specific pedagogy and state/national curriculumframeworks
- Planning, instructional design, and assessment
- Data analysis
- Managing the learning environment
- Ongoing professional growth
- Collaborating with colleagues, families, and the community
What Will School Leaders Be Responsible for Knowing?
Studies have shown leaders in today’s schools must be familiar with best practices in a variety of areas. The WGEE advocates that through the training and professional development process, administrators and other school leaders understand:
- Instructional leadership, including state curriculum frameworks, student performance standards, and strategies for assuring inclusive schooling for children with disabilities
- Strategic leadership, including comprehensive school reform, managing change, student performance data analysis, and long and short term planning
- Teacher or principal evaluation skills and methods, including observation, performance analysis and documentation
- Professional community building, including teacher instructional leadership
- Communication skills
- Promotion of equity and diversity
- Parent and community relationships
What Difference Will Comprehensive Reform Make?
The current personnel process for teachers and school leaders is an uncoordinated patchwork. Creating a comprehensive human resources process that brings coherence to the system will create a high-quality workforce of educators and ensure accountability around performance. The result will be better retention of educators, which will create dramatic savings in teacher turnover costs, higher levels of teacher and administrator expertise, and more continuity of instruction for students. Better teaching will help us improve student performance, work toward closing the achievement gap, and save money over the long-term by leveraging every other investment we make in education.
Why Will This Approach Work?
This approach draws on national, research-based best practices. It is also backed by a broad cross-section of advocates who don’t always see eye-to-eye but are united in agreement about the critical importance of this bill. The WGEE is made up of more than 60 individual members and 25 organizations, including two members of the Massachusetts legislature, four major state business groups, the two Massachusetts teachers’ unions, the state superintendents’ association, both state principals’ organizations, representatives from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, colleges and universities, educators’ professional associations, parent and student advocacy organizations, and teachers and administrators.
We believe the WGEE platform will address the following, critical issues:
- Improve the quality of teaching and learning all children experience
- Coordinate the human resource process for educators to best ensure professional learning
- Ensure that all teachers and leaders have the expertise they need for the success of their students
- Create accountability measures which ensure that everyone—districts, individual schools, administrators, teachers, preparation programs, school committees, and educator preparation programs—is working together to enhance student learning.