If You Were Secretary of Ed for a Day, How would YOU Elevate the Teaching Profession
By Anthony Cody.
This particular teacher appreciation week we seem to be getting an especially hard sell on the virtues of John King, who left behind a state full of angry parents and teachers in New York in order to seize the reins of President Obama’s Department of Education, just as the administration prepares to leave. The big theme we are hearing is that Secretary King wants to “elevate the teaching profession.” This storycites the Teach to Leadprogram, which is a Dept of Ed partnership with ASCD and the National Board. King says,
The idea is to empower teachers to lead from the classroom. Too often teachers feel that they have to leave the classroom to address policy issues. We wanted to create a pathway for teachers to develop initiatives while staying in the classroom.
In honor of Teacher Appreciation week, King released this statement. Much of it is the sort of praise we often hear from politicians. He also states:
…the Obama administration and I are invested in lifting up and honoring teaching. We understand that teacher voice is a crucial part of conversations that impact your classroom and your profession, and we are committed to ensuring you are supported so you can do your best work on behalf of our children every day. We believe strongly that teachers should have a voice in the policy decisions that affect you and your students.
This may not sound very new. King’s predecessor, Arne Duncan, also used his office to try to “elevate” teachers. In 2012 Duncan launched “Project RESPECT,” as described here. But for some reason teacher morale continued to plummet in spite of this. And we never seem to get policies that show evidence of real input from teachers.
At this point, in the eleventh hour of the Obama administration, I am not especially interested in trying to get teachers a “seat at the table,” since far too often this seems to be a symbolic gesture devoid of real meaning. Programs like “Teach to Lead” tend to confine teacher leadership to things like “help colleagues to implement the Common Core.” Support is rarely offered to leadership that actually challenges existing policies. For that sort of leadership, teachers need to get a bit outside the government and philanthropy-funded boxes, and work within their unions, or with groups like the Network for Public Education, or the BadAss Teachers.