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Teachers Take Their Lessons to Capitol Hill
Friday, January 15, 2010
As the debate begins over the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary School Act (also called No Child Left Behind), the College Board wants to ensure that teacher voices play a prominent role in the discussions.
With that in mind, on Dec. 3, 2009, the College Board sent a group of teachers to Capitol Hill to personally deliver their messages to the United States Congress. They spent an entire day giving their views to policymakers on a range of important educational topics, including teacher and student assessment, teacher compensation, and teacher–student ratios.
“We can’t have sensible school reform without ongoing and direct input from teachers, and we need to help amplify their voices," said Alan Heaps, vice president of advocacy at the College Board.
Through both a panel discussion and individual visits to committee staff and legislators, the teachers shared with federal policymakers their experiences and insights to better inform the education reform debate. Teachers conveyed their requests on many topics, such as:
- implementing multiple measures for teacher evaluations — including peer reviews, test scores, observations and value-added evaluations — in order to assess all aspects of teacher quality;
- creating a system to receive feedback and suggestions for improvement. Teachers should be fully involved in their own professional development, they said, because teacher-led and teacher-selected professional development models give teachers buy-in.
- making AP® available in their schools, to all students;
- providing teachers with incentives other than money that will improve their teaching, such as professional development in their areas of interest.
Six of the teachers who visited Capitol Hill were among those featured in Teachers Are the Center of Education: Profiles of Eight Teachers, a College Board report released in October 2009. It is the first of several reports that the College Board will issue in the upcoming months to ensure that teacher voices are heard in this important debate.
As the report states, “The reasons for writing this report are simple: To highlight the critical importance of teachers, salute their great work and recognize that they stand at the center of education.”
The teachers profiled are Cathleen Cadigan from Thomas Jefferson High School in Dallas; Sheryl Fontaine from Reed High School in Sparks, Nev.; Bill Jeter from Perpich Center for Arts Education in Golden Valley, Minn.; Judy Ellsesser-Painter from South Webster High School in South Webster, Ohio; Steven Crawford from Bellevue High School in Bellevue, Wash.; and Juliet Lee from South Bronx Preparatory in New York.
Capitol Hill staff expressed interest in many of the issues addressed, particularly identifying ways to assess teacher performance. The teachers believe that this could be best handled by a combination of measurements, including peer observation and student gains as measured not only by test scores, but also by portfolios that would include other kinds of assessments and work.
Two to four more reports using teacher voices are anticipated as a part of this effort, along with a comparable number of additional visits to Capitol Hill. In addition, there will be follow-up with Capitol Hill staff to discuss how to build upon this first effort.