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Teachers Network Leadership Institute:
Our Policy Recommendations:
What Matters Most-Improving Student Achievement

What Matters Most-Improving Student Achievement | Getting Real and Getting Smart: A Report from the National Teacher Policy Institute | Literacy

I. Get Serious About Standards

1) Students can achieve high standards if teachers have adequate resources.
It is essential that teachers, students, and classrooms have the resources necessary to implement the standards. Every school must have up-to-date technology and materials, libraries, and laboratories. Teachers need to be a part of the decision-making process that determines what resources are procured and how they are allocated. Furthermore, all teachers, no matter where they teach or whom they teach, should have support from the school, district, and community to provide students with the resources that they need. 

2) The entire school community-students, teachers, and parents-needs to be knowledgeable about standards and expectations, to ensure student success in meeting standards.
The implementation of standards is not solely the work of teachers. Parents, administrators, and the students themselves need to be knowledgeable about standards and expectations. Each school and school district needs to put in place a comprehensive educational campaign to ensure that all parents have the information they need to help their children meet standards.

3) Classroom-based assessment is essential to helping students achieve high standards.
High-stakes decisions, such as promotion to the next grade, must not be made solely on the basis of standardized tests. These decisions must also be informed by standards-based assessments crafted by teachers and by culminating projects that provide real evidence of sustained growth in learning over time.

II. Reinvent Teacher Preparation and Professional Development

1) Teacher education programs and schools need to work together to support new teachers in the transition from teacher education programs to the workplace.
Right now, a first year teacher has the same job assignment as a 30-year veteran. It is rarely recognized that new teachers are making a significant transition and that the conditions of their first year will determine whether or not they continue teaching. The first year of teaching must be considered a bridge year in the development of all new teachers. Schools and districts should treat this first year as a paid residency, similar to the medical model. New teachers should have mentoring provided by experienced teachers whom they chose and collegial support through university-supported seminars, a buddy system or teacher networks.

2) Teacher networks offer valuable support in the induction and retention of new teachers and in ongoing professional development.
Teacher networks can provide much needed instructional and emotional support for beginning teachers during their induction period, as well as for veteran teachers seeking to improve their craft. These voluntary networks connect new and experienced teachers within schools and districts - often focusing on improving student achievement within a specific content area. Our research has shown that participation in teacher networks can help improve the retention of new teachers and renew the enthusiasm and expertise of veteran teachers.

3) Ongoing professional development needs to be designed to increase teacher effectiveness in improving student achievement.
All teachers - from the newest to the most experienced - need to keep up-to-date and participate in the development of new skills and the understanding of new knowledge. Our research has found that effective professional development does not occur during an isolated workshop or training day. Instead, effective professional development must occur as part of a sustained process, within the context of an ongoing support system. Teachers must collaborate - work, talk, and think together. They need the opportunity to apply new ideas to the classroom, receive feedback and support, and then refine those ideas. Most importantly, professional development must be carefully assessed for its ultimate impact- its effect on student achievement. 

III. Organize Schools for Success

1) Schools and classrooms must be organized to meet individual student needs 
Each student has specific and unique instructional needs, and teachers must organize their classes to meet these needs as effectively as possible. Teacher-led restructuring initiatives, from multi-age grouping to after-school programs, can help raise student achievement. Schools must provide the resources and time to allow teachers to organize their learning environments in the most appropriate manner for their particular students

2) Schools must be organized to facilitate teacher collaboration and reflection around student learning
Teacher collaboration can take many forms in the successful school. Teachers may meet on a regular basis to discuss students and their work or to develop curriculum and assessment to meet the specific needs of their students. Teachers also benefit from access to teacher study groups and networks.

3) Schools must be organized to encourage teacher leadership.
Teachers who take on leadership roles in the development of instructional practice can help their students achieve at higher levels. However, teachers in leadership roles have encountered multiple obstacles to providing leadership and teaching full-time in the classroom. A restructured workplace is needed to ensure the continued growth of teacher leadership.

4) Schools must be organized to support innovative ideas.
Restructuring a learning environment is not a task that teachers can undertake alone. School administrators and district personnel can help or hinder teachers' ability to meet their students' needs creatively. 

5) Schools must be organized to enlist parental and community support.
Just as collaboration among teachers around student achievement is crucial for successful schools, so is collaboration among teachers and parents. Parents must know what is going on in the school if they are to be expected to support meaningful reform and help their students reach new standards. 

IV. Put Qualified Teachers in Every Classroom
We see the knowledge, skills, and beliefs that teachers bring to their work as central to good teaching. Teachers must enter the profession knowing the content they will teach, knowing the best teaching methods, and believing that all students can learn. We see two critical facets to ensuring teacher quality: first, teacher preparation and professional development, and second, school organization. Our goal is to have "good" teachers in "good" schools.

Good Teachers
Good teachers are prepared prior to their first teaching assignments and supported throughout their first years of teaching. Their goal is to help students learn and achieve. Their work is guided by knowledge of state and local standards for teaching and learning, as measured by teacher and student performance. In order for teachers to succeed in helping every student lean, they must participate in professional development activities that build knowledge and the capacity to expand their instructional practice. Teachers who participate as active learners continually improve their teaching.

Good Schools
Good schools support good teaching. Our research suggests that teacher quality does not exist in a vacuum. For individuals to choose teaching as a career, it is essential that there be incentives that are intrinsic to the work of teaching and learning. There must be a culture that includes time for collaboration, appropriate recognition and compensation, and opportunities for leadership and professional growth. We believe that when these conditions are in place, people whom we want to teach our children will be attracted to the profession and that they will stay. Good schools are places where new teachers flourish and where students can aspire to become teachers.


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