Los Angeles Convening Recap2 Comments
On March 2nd, 2010, in Los Angeles, Teachers Network and the Ford Foundation co-hosted a conversation with the Cotsen Family Foundation, the Stuart Foundation, and the Los Angeles Education Partnership. This was the first in a series of three nationwide “convenings” (to be followed by similar events in both New York City and Chicago later this year). The conversation was inspired by the survey conducted by Teachers Network—funded by the Ford Foundation—of effective teachers participating in teacher networking communities across the country, asking why competent and effective teachers stay or leave the profession. Then, the conversation continued in L.A. to build on the survey information and ask, “What will it really take to make sure every child has an effective teacher?”
Nearly 200 people from K-12 teaching faculties, school and district administration, boards of education, nonprofit and foundation sectors, teachers unions, and policy organizations attended. Most of these participants gave their opinions both before and after the event—focused on what needs to be in place or needs to change in order to ensure effective teaching. Echoing the Teachers Network national survey about keeping the best in the profession, collaborative learning and peer support, along with professional development including mentoring and coaching, were mentioned most often as important stimulants to effective teaching. Administrator support ranked high on their list of ideas as did the importance of teacher leadership and a variety of roles for teachers to play. Respondents mentioned the need for more time over and over again. They wrote about needing time for collaboration, professional development, planning, analyzing student data and meeting with parents.
Participants added on the need for a useful teacher evaluation process—directly connected to evidence of quality teaching, as well as getting results for students. They thought that all people in the education system are accountable for student learning and achievement. They also shared that strengthening the professional role of teachers will be very important for success.
Regardless of their respective roles in “the system,” participants agreed that supporting teachers in continuous learning—from start to finish of their careers—is essential. Teachers want to be treated more as professionals and have a role in decision-making. Administrators see their role as helping to build collaborative communities at schools and within districts. While the need for additional funding was mentioned by some, most participants’ comments instead related to having necessary materials in all classrooms, and the resources that all teachers need in order to effectively plan, observe, and more.
Eliminating or changing the seniority and tenure guidelines was mentioned as important to administrators struggling with layoffs of effective teachers and a few in the nonprofit sector. Using student test score data to determine teacher effectiveness was embraced when it was included in a more complete package of data about student learning and achievement, and when teacher evaluation was focused on improving and strengthening teaching.