I’ve been meaning to call attention to an article that ran in Ed Week a few weeks back titled Teachers of the Year Call for Changes in NCLB.
Turns out that this year’s National Teacher of the Year team has stepped forward to demand a place at the policymaking table in a year when conversations about the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind legislation will dominate political headlines. “Sometimes you need a new voice at the table. … We are 50 people with no history, and we want to bring a new perspective to the debate,” said Madaline Fennell, the Nebraska teacher of the year.
I applaud the work of this diverse group to raise our voice into a policy conversation that will greatly influence the remainder of my professional career. Few in education believe that "NCLB 1.0" was well designed. Instead, constant barriers have proven to be divisive stumbling blocks consuming energies and resources at nearly every level. "NCLB 2.0" must be "new and improved" if we are to retain our world’s standing as an educated nation.
More importantly, though, I am jazzed to see our nation’s most accomplished teachers stepping forward with a demand to be involved in educational policy! For far too long, teachers have sat on the sidelines as our profession has been defined by those furthest from the classroom. As a result, poorly crafted decisions are made with unintended—and almost unimaginable—consequences.
By publicly requesting a place at the decision making table, our State Teachers of the Year are reinforcing the idea that teachers can—and should—play an essential role in efforts to design effective educational policies. Their actions challenge a reality first noted in the Institute for Educational Leadership’s seminal report on Teacher Leadership titled Redefining the Teacher as Leader:
"Yet we are loath as a nation to consider whether our roughly 2.78 million public school teachers should have any consequential role in schooling beyond that of closely controlled human mechanisms for funneling information into schoolchildren—and then getting out of the way.
The infinite potential the nation’s teachers possess for sharing their hard-earned knowledge and wisdom with players in education’s decision-making circles—or even for becoming part of these circles—remains largely unexploited."
Over the next few weeks, I’ll continue to highlight the work done by these incredibly accomplished teachers. They’ve made a case—based on their extensive classroom experience—for ten essential reforms needed to improve NCLB. Each suggestion is supported by a two-page document that explains its importance. I’ll share those documents here.