Rick, a TLN member who regularly travels the U.S. to conduct professional development workshops around sophisticated teaching techniques, offered a frank appraisal of what he often witnesses, in this commentary posted in the TLN daily discussion group.
I agree wholeheartedly that we as a profession need to make connections for the public between effective teaching and a robust economy. Many books, articles, and speakers have done this over the years, but it's a matter of diligence -- getting and keeping those connections on the radar scopes of policymakers and the voting public every year.
Someone in our discussion wrote it was important that we educate the public that "...all classroom teachers can reliably and accurately assess student learning and ability." I agree 100% that we need to educate the public that teachers are more capable than they are perceived to be, but to be honest, I don't think all teachers can do this well.
As I've been traveling around these past few years working with schools, I'm amazed at how limited many teachers' knowledge and application of assessment principles really are. There are some very effective practices I learned more than 25 years ago that, when I introduce them to teacher and principal audiences today, are bold new steps to them.
On-going professional development and annually renewing ourselves are just not priorities in many districts, particularly where money is tight. Except for the few teachers who take their development in their own hands and find a way to fight a system that tries to shut them down (e.g., principals who don't let teachers attend conferences, refuse to subscribe to professional journals, don't provide any time for planning, etc.), these districts plod along, holding teachers accountable without providing them the tools and resources necessary to evolve. Then they wonder what happened when test scores don't improve.
So, while I want to tell the public that, yes, many teachers can assess wisely and produce the results it wants, the truth is that not all of them can do this, and we need the public to make teacher training a priority.
One final thought: As teacher leaders, we need to keep reminding the public that teachers are the public, too. It's not us versus them -- no one is an outsider when it comes to our goals for our nation's children.
Sure, there is expertise about education that a non-trained or inexperienced John Q. Public might not have, but we are all calling for effective education that closes achievement gaps -- as parents and members of our own communities. Our own money pays taxes that pay our salaries. We want accountability in our schools just as much as the public does, including business leaders.