RELEASE: To Help Teachers Adapt to a Changing America, CAP Offers a Progressive Agenda to Transform and Elevate the Teaching Profession

Washington, D.C. — In a new report released today, the Center for American Progress offers a progressive agenda to transform and elevate the teaching profession, allowing teachers to adapt to diversified classrooms and a rapidly changing U.S. economy. The 21st century global economy requires all students to graduate from the K-12 system ready to tackle the challenges of college and career. As a result, we ask more of teachers each and every day, even though our education system often fails to provide them with the support they need to succeed.

“When it comes to student success, research and common sense overwhelmingly point to the importance of attracting and retaining excellent teachers—and maintaining American global competitiveness means ensuring that there is a stellar teacher in every classroom,” said Carmel Martin, Executive Vice President for Policy at CAP and co-author of the report. “As we demand more from our nation’s teachers, we must give them the tools they need to succeed. That means raising the bar to entry, bringing pay in line with other professions, and giving teachers the necessary time to prepare and improve their practice. By enacting systemic and comprehensive changes to the teaching profession, policymakers can help lay the foundation for great schools for all students.”

“The modern economy, the changing makeup of our nation, and recent policy reforms have transformed the everyday classroom reality for teachers. Professional expectations for teachers are higher than ever, but our education system has yet to catch up,” said Catherine Brown, Vice President of Education Policy at CAP and co-author of the report. “Ending teacher shortages and ensuring that every child has access to a great teacher will require a comprehensive approach to raising the bar for the teaching profession.”

According to an AFT survey, less than half of new teachers describe their training teacher preparation or alternative certifications programs as very good, and many say they learned more from other teachers than from formal training. America’s teacher pipeline stands in contrast to the teaching systems in high-performing nations such as Canada, Finland, and Singapore, which have focused on putting systems in place that support great teaching and fuel dramatic improvements in student achievement. One potential consequence of the failures in our existing teacher pipeline is the teaching shortage that plagues many districts and states around the country. The short-term strategies that many districts use to fill the gaps—such as emergency certificates—may appear helpful in the short term but only worsen the problem in the long run. Such strategies are destructive to student learning and fuel the perception already shared by far too many Millennials, as reflected in a Third Way poll, that the teaching profession is a bad career choice for high-achieving young people.

While no single, simple policy fix will be enough to transform the teaching profession, systemic change will be critical for the future of the teacher workforce and the nation’s students. CAP offers a series of long-term policy solutions for improving the teacher pipeline, including:

  • Ensuring teacher preparation programs select candidates carefully and purposefully.
  • Requiring teacher preparation programs to improve coursework and offer on-the-job training in classrooms with students through higher-quality, hands-on training experiences. Just as medical students spend time learning in hospitals, prospective teachers should be afforded the opportunity to learn in classrooms.
  • Improving licensure exams to make them a more meaningful bar for entry into the teaching profession.
  • Raising teacher compensation to professional levels and rewarding effective teachers who take on leadership roles with pay increases. Teachers should not have to perform their jobs as vocations, and they should receive salaries commensurate with other professions requiring comparable education.
  • Investing in new teachers by supporting their professional growth early on. Just as new doctors receives support and continued training through residency programs, new teachers need high-quality induction programs and continued training from experienced and effective peers.
  • Redesigning school schedules to support improvements in teacher practice. Teachers in the United States spend most of the day teaching, while other developed nations recognize that teachers need time to prepare lessons and improve their practice.
  • Improving professional development. To be effective, teachers need professional development that is job embedded and aligned to the needs of students and teachers—not one-off workshops.
  • Providing more opportunities for effective teachers to take on leadership roles. Teachers should be provided advancement opportunities without having to leave the classroom, as effective teachers provide a valuable resource for induction and professional development support for other teachers. Just as attending physicians provide support to other young doctors, master teachers can provide support to newer teachers.
  • Reforming tenure by setting a high bar for attaining it and streamlining due process.
  • Ensuring that school leaders receive training in how to support teachers. The profession does not stop with teachers; school leaders and administrators must also be trained and supported to play a role in instructional leadership.

CAP’s proposal pairs increased selectivity with systems that support great teaching—such as attractive compensation structures, career ladders, and enhanced professional support systems. In order to make teaching a more prestigious career, we must grow the pool of interested candidates while also ensuring that teachers have the tools they need to be successful.

Click here to read “Smart, Skilled, and Striving: Transforming and Elevating the Teaching Profession” by Carmel Martin, Lisette Partelow, and Catherine Brown.

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, contact Allison Preiss at apreiss@americanprogress.org or 202.478.6331.