Teacher Voices: 2016 Year in Review

Teachers are on the frontline of education, but too often their voices go unheard in policy discussion. To hear them tell it, higher education standards are helping students achieve to new levels and empowering educators to collaborate more to unlock students’ full potential. At the same time, they are looking for better professional development opportunities to effectively teach to new, more rigorous expectations and certainty that policymakers won’t pull the rug out from under them. Here is a look at teachers’ experience with high, comparable standards over the past year.

Understanding ESSA: Three Tips for Educators to Help Shape Education Policy | Huffington Post

As states prepare to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act, policymakers need to hear from stakeholders, like teachers and parents, writes Katrina Boone. And there are practical ways to get involved, starting with understanding the law (with helpful tools like ESSA for Educators and Understanding ESSA). Educators should consider how the legislation applies to their practice and context (the why of why teachers want to become involved). Finally, Boone notes, teachers are the experts, so they should share their experience and expertise. Parents and teachers can find more information about ESSA plans in their state here.

Henry Ford and Education Policy | Stories from School AZ

During the No Child Left Behind era and even before, classroom learning was “separated, isolated and compartmentalized,” writes Beth Maloney, an Arizona teacher. The Every Student Succeeds Act, however, has the potential to end the “factory model forever” by encouraging collaboration and greater emphasis on conceptual understanding. “Our students need to learn to communicate across boundaries with a variety of purposes,” Maloney adds. As states implement the new law it is imperative they set the bar high for all students to continue to build on the success higher standards are having.

In This Election, Vote to Build a ‘City on a Hill’ | Huffington Post

Ariel Maloney, an English teacher in Massachusetts, says education issues provide an opportunity to bridge political differences. Educators have worked tirelessly to begin teaching literacy, numeracy, critical thinking, and analysis aligned to rigorous learning goals. That’s created an “integral framework by which teachers can ensure students across the country gain the competencies which are necessary for our children.” The Every Student Succeeds Act ensures state and local authorities have full control over education issues, and overwhelmingly states have used the moment to recommit to high, comparable education standards. Already, states that have demonstrated that commitment are beginning to see improvements in student outcomes. “The message should be clear: High standards and high-quality assessments best serve our students’ needs,” Jim Cowen wrote.

Former Georgia Teacher of the Year Decries Myths about Common Core | Atlanta Journal Constitution

In response to an opinion article that details what the author believes to be the “Seven Deadly Sins of Common Core,” Georgia’s 2014 Teacher of the Year Jemelleh Coes says such accusations “feed public confusion and misunderstanding, [and] also put the rigor, equity, and achievement encouraged by high standards at risk.” Rigorous expectations set kids up for success, foster creativity, provide clear goals, prioritize important skills, and set a foundation for learning from kindergarten to high school. Policymakers should step up supports for educators, Coes adds.

Re-Imagining Professional Learning to Help Teachers and Students Succeed | Huffington Post

Just as students need support in and out of the classroom, educators need the proper professional support to effectively teach to rigorous standards, writes Katrina Boone. “If we want to raise the bar for student learning, we have to raise the bar for teacher learning as well… [Unfortunately] professional development too often ignores the individual needs of teachers and their students.” A RAND study found that only 28 percent of math teachers and 31 percent of ELA teachers believe professional development opportunities reflect their needs. Teachers “simply haven’t received the scaffolding to accommodate such a significant course correction,” three Arizona Teachers of the Year explain. “By the same token, it’s wrong to suggest teachers have soured on the Common Core.”