Promote Teacher Quality with Career Mobility – Not More Regulation

October 3, 2011 at 11:56 AM Leave a comment

Professionals often get their first jobs because of their educational backgrounds; they keep getting jobs because of where they have worked and what they have done. They enter each job well-prepared and committed to keeping themselves current, energized, and growing. Obstacles are hurdles to be overcome; problems are opportunities for leadership and accountability. These are NOT the values of regulation; they are the values of entrepreneurship.

Historical patterns of regulation in K-12 education tended to erect barriers to entry in lieu of professional quality assurance. Teachers and administrators have had to complete required coursework and apprenticeships as well as passing exams or other assessments to achieve licensure. They then entered the profession, often remaining in the same school district for the duration of their careers. Periodic recertification required professional development and, in some cases, additional formal education. However, by that time, most had achieved tenure. They were IN the system, and every financial incentive from paycheck to pension created barriers to exit.

The US Department of Education has determined that this regulated approach to teacher quality has failed. What we need is…drum roll, please…regulation to make the barriers to entry higher. Huh? Yes, let’s make it harder for those closest to the energized newbie end of the spectrum, new teachers-in-training, to get the job. Not sure how this addresses the problems of hiring and retention in urban education, but it clearly does something that even the toughest blame-game champions have never been able to accomplish: assign accountability for failures within the public education system to people who have not yet participated. Way to keep the peace guys!

I am truly disappointed. This is not Change I Can Believe In. This is further abdication of leadership. We have an opportunity to inject entrepreneurship into the system, challenge bureaucratic procedures, and reset the way we motivate leaders in the classroom and in the front office. Let’s rethink this thing. And not with the institutional myopia of a group of insiders whose vision comes from the wrong end of the telescope. It’s time to let people in education come and go as they please, and to bring a more cosmopolitan approach to problem-solving. I’m talking removal of the barriers to exit.

Suppose teachers and administrators had freedom to move about the education system, seeking new experiences, sharing expertise, and disseminating best practices…without severe financial penalties. Suppose a great teacher wanted to go for an MBA instead of an MA in school leadership…to bring new management tools back to the system. Suppose an empathetic school leader wanted a burned-out educator to get to a better place…without losing the ranch.

Educator quality arises from openness to change, which, when managed correctly, translates into professional growth. It is predicated on trust, fair evaluation of performance, and safe harbor while taking calculated risks and exploring creativity. It is stifled by rigid regulations, inflexible pay and benefits, and scapegoating behavior. We will not build a better education system with a slow trickle of teachers from more tightly regulated teacher prep programs. We have a lot of great teachers. We need to set them free.


Entry filed under: Career Arcs, Teacher Effectiveness, Teacher Prep.

Symphonies Simplified Because You Laid Them Off

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Trackback this post  |  Subscribe to the comments via RSS Feed

%d bloggers like this: