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The Evidence for Elevating Teachers

By Stephanie Hirsh, Learning Forward & Michele McLaughlin, Knowledge Alliance

Stephanie Hirsh image
Stephanie Hirsh

As the race for the White House continues to gain momentum, the various campaigns are, not surprisingly, focused on issues such as national security and the economy. At the same time, national polling data show that Americans remain interested in improving education and, in particular, how to modernize and elevate the teaching profession.

To that end, the TeachStrong campaign has rallied leading education groups around nine key principles to draw more attention to the national imperative to invest in teaching and teachers. The principle we most embrace is the imperative to provide teachers with the time, tools, and support needed for success.

Michele McLaughlin image
Michele McLaughlin

One often-overlooked but critical tool that teachers need is research-based evidence about teaching and learning. Our organizations strongly believe that we must ensure teachers have access to the best available evidence so that they can, like other professionals, be informed about developments in their field and how to improve their practice. Teachers are hungry for this emerging knowledge, particularly when it is explained and connected to how they may use it in the classroom.

An example of the kind of evidence we want to see more of are the Practice Guides found at What Works Clearinghouse. These practice guides are the most popular items downloaded from the website, indicating that demand for such evidence is strong. Teachers need to know these evidence-based tools are available.

At the same time, we need to make sure teachers have the support they need to implement research findings with fidelity. Fortunately, most states have identified evidence-based professional development as a key lever for strengthening teacher effectiveness. In addition to evidence-based resources, teachers need effective job-embedded, research-driven, and content-focused professional learning that enables them to adjust their practice to meet the individual demands of their students.  

Happily, we have a new opportunity to address these needs through the newly signed Every Student Succeeds Act. This new law will promote the use of evidence in teaching, learning, and professional learning. As in any profession, the evidence must be combined with the expertise and professional judgment of practitioners. In this case, teachers must be at the helm of determining how to best use evidence for their development. We should take this opportunity to inform and involve teachers in any implementation of research-based evidence.

We are hopeful that we are embarking on a new era where the national conversation is shifting to how we best support teachers so that we can modernize and elevate the profession. We are proud to support #TeachStrong in this effort.

Stephanie Hirsh is executive director of Learning Forward. Learning Forward's more than 10,000 members and 40 state and provincial affiliates are committed to increasing student achievement and educator effectiveness through standards-based professional learning.

Michele McLaughlin is the president of Knowledge Alliance, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization focused on dramatically improving K-12 public education by advocating for the widespread, effective use of research-based knowledge in policy and practice.

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