This is a guest post by Peter Cunningham, the executive director of Education Post. He served as assistant secretary for communications and outreach in the U.S. Department of Education during the Obama Administration. Prior to that he led communications for Chicago Public Schools.
Surveys suggest teachers are the most trusted voices in public education and thanks to an excellent new survey from Educators for Excellence, we have some ideas of what teachers would do if they ran our schools.
They would pay teachers more money to work in challenging schools and teach challenging subjects instead of today’s system where teachers are largely paid the same regardless of where they teach.
They would find more ways to advance their careers without leaving the classroom, serving as teacher leaders and mentors. Today, many of them feel a lot of pressure to become administrators and it’s the easiest way to increase earnings, but many teachers would prefer to stay in the classroom.
They would make student growth the biggest factor in evaluating both schools and teachers. They would develop an accountability system based on multiple measures, including student work, classroom observations and school climate and culture.
Despite the recent Supreme Court ruling prohibiting mandatory union dues, many teachers would still join unions, primarily for better wages and benefits and less so for job security or work rules.
They would choose a higher salary over a bigger pension. Their unions would focus less on politics and more on strengthening the field of teaching.
Teachers would have a greater voice in developing and implementing education policy, which would be more focused on their practice.
They would push for teacher prep reforms to they are better prepared to manage classrooms and teach children of color in “culturally responsive instruction.”
They would develop alternatives to harsh discipline practices such as suspension and expulsion, except in extreme cases.
They would not choose to carry guns in school even though gun violence and school shootings are now their top safety concern.
They would spend more time collaborating with each other.
They would differentiate instruction based on the individual needs of each student.
Although school choice is not their preferred solution to education’s challenges, they would be more open to vouchers, education savings accounts and tax credits, than their unions. This is especially true of teachers of color. They still worry about the loss of resources in district schools when students opt out of the traditional school system.
There’s much more in the survey but the overall trend is clear. Teachers want to serve and want to lead. Most important, they want to succeed and make a difference and they are willing to be held accountable for results. Their voices matter.