One largely-overlooked part of the No Child Left Behind law is the requirement that every student have a "highly qualified" teacher by 2006. While the definition of "highly qualified" has fifty-one different definitions since Congress abandoned responsibility for setting this standard to each state, nothing in the law talks about the support those teachers should receive once they enter the classroom.
“But it’s not enough,” he [Eric Hirsch, VP at the Southeastern Center for Teaching Quality] said, “to just take a highly qualified teacher and put them in a classroom and in a school that does not provide them with the working conditions that allow them to be successful.”
It’s about time someone addressed the issue of teacher support!
The article talks a lot about administrative support, especially the need for principals to actually be in the classrooms to see for themselves what’s going on. In our overly large system, school administrators are often pulled for central office committees, training and other meetings. Especially in the high schools, principals are very detached from instruction, rarely spending any time watching what teachers and students are doing in the classroom. That accounts for this finding from the survey conducted by the Center.
For instance, on a 1-to-5 scale — with 1 being “strongly disagree” and 5 being “strongly agree” — the average teacher rating was 2.72 on the statement that they were “protected from duties that interfere with their essential role of educating students.” On the same statement, the average rating from principals was 3.8.
Such a finding, Mr. Hirsch said, could have a big effect on whether anything is actually done to address such concerns. “If principals don’t see a problem, where is the impetus to reform?” he said.
The researchers also looked at the issues of planning time (especially with colleagues), accessibility to technology, and other factors teachers noted as important to their support. The one major factor that the researchers left out was that of salaries. According to them, this is one issue that few schools have control over.
However, buried in the article was one very significant piece of information which notes "a strong connection between professional development and a school’s ‘adequate yearly progress’". That’s deserves a whole lot more emphasis. A strong professional development program should be at the top of any list of essential elements for supporting teachers.
Realistically, on-going teacher training programs tie together all the other factors discussed in the article. Not only do such a programs improve learning, they would, by themselves, provide tremendous improvement to teacher working conditions.