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Shifting the Focus of the Teaching Debate

The issue of teaching quality has been at the forefront of the education debate in recent weeks. I am concerned by the tone of much of the coverage I've seen and read. Many stories and commentaries focus on identifying and removing ineffective teachers, rather than recognizing the significant efforts of those in our schools and having an honest discussion of what can be done to help them increase their effectiveness. The vast majority of teachers want support to improve their practice to ensure that they help their students achieve high standards.

Rather than focusing on labeling poor teachers, lets ensure teachers get the support they need to help their students achieve high standards. I am confident that those committed to continuous improvement can become great teachers when supported by a comprehensive system of effective professional learning.

Our ultimate goal must be that every child experiences great teaching every day. We must ensure that great ideas systematically spread from classroom to classroom and school to school. We accomplish this when we ensure that every teacher is assigned to at least one learning team, and that learning teams assume responsibility for the success of all team members and all students. This occurs when learning teams have time and help examining data on their students' performance, determining their students' and their own most important learning priorities, and systematically investing in their own learning so that they acquire the knowledge and skills they need to ensure more students achieve standards.

These are the kinds of structures that exist in schools where students are already achieving at high levels, and where there is a collective responsibility for the success of every student. We have examples of this is being accomplished in every state; we know it can be done. Let's spend less energy talking about the few poor teachers, and more on how we help all teachers achieve unprecedented levels of excellence. Let us demand that schools make effective professional learning commonplace so that teaching improves and students achieve.

Stephanie Hirsh
Executive Director, Learning Forward, Dallas

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