Teaching is really hard work, Secretary Duncan told a group of more than 800 teachers this morning in Baltimore County, and the job is becoming more challenging as education reforms take hold in classrooms.
The Secretary spoke frankly about the changes that teachers will face as states implement rigorous academic standards and introduce new evaluation systems. These changes are necessary, he noted, because nearly 25 percent of America’s youth don’t graduate from high school, and about half of all students who go to community college need remedial education.
“We won’t change those numbers without high standards and high expectations,” Duncan said.
The Secretary explained how the Obama Administration through No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waivers has given states flexibility in exchange for raising standards, setting performance targets that are ambitious and achievable, and designing local interventions that focus closely on the neediest children.
We also asked states to come up with a better way to support teachers and principals. Look at annual student growth rather than proficiency — and use other measures of effectiveness – like classroom observation, peer review, and parent and student feedback.
We further encouraged states to develop new ways to support and evaluate teachers in all subjects –the arts, foreign languages, science, history, and physical education.
We didn’t eliminate testing because we believe it is important to measure progress. We need to know who is ahead and who is behind – who is succeeding and who needs more support. In an ideal world, that data should also drive instruction and drive useful professional development.
We fully understand that standardized tests don’t capture all of the subtle qualities of successful teaching. That’s why we call for multiple measures in evaluating teachers.
Duncan also spoke about the ongoing conversation about teacher evaluation that now includes a full range of issues like teacher prep, professional development, career ladders, tenure, and compensation. He cited ED’s labor-management conference and RESPECT project as recent examples of the department seeking input from teachers, unions, administrators and school boards.
“You know what success looks like,” he said. “You know what it would take to transform the field.”