Washington, D.C. — Over the past five years, an increasing number of grassroots organizations—often called “teacher-voice organizations”—and fellowships have been created to give teachers more direct influence on the policies that impact their profession. A first-of-its-kind report released today by the Center for American Progress analyzes why teacher-voice organizations and fellowships are gaining momentum across the country, as well as outlines their unique place in the education-reform debate and whether or not these organizations will spark a broader teacher-voice movement.
Working both within and outside of teachers unions, the report also highlights how teacher-voice organizations and fellowships are providing teachers with new avenues to voice their opinions on the policies that shape their classrooms.
“What I find most interesting is that these teacher-voice organizations formed as the number of teacher-focused education-policy reforms increased,” said Kaitlin Pennington, an Education Policy Analyst at CAP and the author of the report. “It looks as though these groups represent the growing interest that teachers have in voicing their opinions and influencing policies that impact their daily work.”
Although the report recognizes that this is not the first time that teachers have sought to have a voice at the policy table, the recent emergence of teacher-voice organizations and fellowships signifies a growing focus among teachers to professionalize the teaching profession, including reforms aimed at improving teaching quality and student achievement. Specifically, by working under the premise that teacher voice is not monolithic, these organizations and fellowships—often working alongside traditional teachers unions—target the district, state, and federal policies that directly impact their day-to-day practices. By moving beyond the standard “bread-and-butter issues” such as wages and working conditions, teacher-voice organizations and fellowships take on a variety of policy issues that are as unique as the many diverse voices involved within these groups.
The report also provides a detailed description of several teacher-voice organizations and fellowships—including each organization’s mission, unique policy focus, and future goals—to portray the wide range of issue areas that these grassroots organizations seek to reform.
Despite each group’s unique founding principles, missions, and structures, however, the report emphasizes that teacher-voice organizations and fellowships also share many commonalities that may help generate a broader, full-fledged movement. These common characteristics—such as the use of technology to connect and mobilize participants, and a shared respect toward the history and influence of teachers unions—is fundamentally changing the way educators organize themselves around policy issues.
Education scholars note that when teachers are allotted the opportunity to participate in the education-reform debate, both the teachers and the educational system as a whole are improved. At a time when new policy initiatives from teacher-evaluation reform to the implementation of the Common Core State Standards are directly shaping the work of teachers, teacher-voice organizations and fellowships constitute a new coalition that has caught the attention of policymakers, union leaders, and educators alike.
Read the full report: New Organizations, New Voices: The Landscape of Today’s Teachers Shaping Policy by Kaitlin Pennington
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