Listening and Learning at the International Summit on the Teaching Profession

ISTP 2014

Delegations from high-performing education systems across the globe gathered for the 4th International Summit on the Teaching Profession in New Zealand.

At the end of March, National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, Chris Minnich, executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, and I joined delegations from high-performing and rapidly improving education systems across the globe for the 4th International Summit on the Teaching Profession. Whether large or small, highly decentralized or not, countries share a common desire to create a high-quality education system that prepares all children for success in their personal and professional lives. The summits provide a unique opportunity for education ministers and teacher leaders to come together to learn from each other, share best practices, and look for ways to replicate or adapt back home what other countries are doing well.

New Zealand welcomed us with a powhiri, the traditional Maori ceremony, which is something most of the international guests and I had never seen. It was a beautiful and moving welcome and I was honored, as the host of the first summit in 2011, to accept the New Zealand challenge for a successful 4th summit on behalf of the international community. Many thanks to New Zealand Minister of Education Hekia Parata and her team for being gracious hosts during the summit.

This year’s summit focused on Excellence, Equity and Inclusiveness. There was complete agreement that where you live or what your parents do for a living should not determine your access to a quality education. We need to invest in education to close opportunity gaps that exist for too many children and create learning environments that allow all children to thrive. Using PISA 2012 data, OECD showed that there’s a false choice between equity and excellence: education systems as diverse as Korea and Canada can, and do, achieve both.

Maori Welcome

The International delegations began the summit in New Zealand with an official Maori welcome ceremony.

The countries represented at the summit stressed strong support for early interventions to help children start school healthy and ready to learn—one minister even suggested early learning as the focus of the next summit. Many of the countries around the table, including our New Zealand hosts, have a stronger commitment to early childhood education than we do in the U.S. Young children in New Zealand can receive 20 hours of free early learning opportunities each week. Data show that 95 percent of New Zealand children have had some early childhood education when they start school. The U.S. rate of 65 percent pales in comparison.  

During the summit, we also talked a lot about teacher leadership and collaboration. For example, Canada involves teachers in making and implementing policy. Representatives from Singapore talked about the importance of consultation and feedback, as well as the country’s three career tracks, which provide different options for teachers’ career progression. New Zealand discussed its proposed program to create new roles and pathways, while Hong Kong mentioned a new school leadership program. These interventions and many others confirmed to me that our new Teach to Lead (T2L) initiative and our ongoing labor-management collaboration mirror what high-performing systems are doing.

I came away from the summit discussions with a renewed energy and commitment to early learning teacher leadership and collaboration, and to continuing the challenging work of education improvement. The U.S. delegation committed publicly to:

  • Continue to work to increase access to high-quality early learning opportunities,
  • Increase opportunities for teacher leadership,
  • And, support labor-management collaboration to increase learning for all students.

Dennis, Randi, Chris and I are already moving ahead on our commitments and will report back on our progress to the international community next year at the 5th summit in Alberta, Canada.  Little did we know three years ago, when we hosted the first international summit, that it would become an international community of practice dedicated to enhancing the teaching profession to improve learning for all students. Now, let’s get to work.

Arne Duncan is the U.S. Secretary of Education

Standing Up for Teachers is an International Endeavor

2012 International Summit on the Teaching Profession

The 2012 International Summit on the Teaching Profession was held in New York City. In 2013, the Summit will be hosted by the Netherlands, OECD and EI. It will be held in Amsterdam.

Today teachers across the globe, from Budapest to Ramallah, are celebrating World Teachers’ Day. Using the theme “Taking a Stand for Teachers!” educators are meeting with students to encourage them to become teachers, holding rallies and leading discussions about the strengthening the teaching profession. Learning about these events excites me and makes me want to connect with my international peers.

In 2011, leaders in the US Department of Education did just that when they met with some of their peers from around the world at the First International Summit on the Teaching Profession. As a result of their participation in the Summit, the Department developed the RESPECT project. Over 3500 teachers provided input into the RESPECT vision statement for strengthening and elevating the teaching profession in the United States.

Building on that work, leaders gathered again in March 2012 for a second international summit.  The US participants (including Secretary Duncan, the Presidents of AFT and NEA and the Executive Director of CCSSO) developed a framework to guide their respective work. This vision aligns with RESPECT, by calling for better teacher preparation, building the capacity of teachers to share leadership and responsibility, and improving professional development for teachers and principals.

A teacher and 2010 Teaching Ambassador Fellow, Linda Yaron, recently worked with teachers in India as part of the State Department’s Teachers for Global Classrooms Program. Linda feels “that the more we can structure relevant, global experiences in and out of the classroom, the more we can deepen what it means to teach and learn in the 21st century.”

Secretary Duncan’s statement for World Teachers’ Day echoes Linda’s words. Teachers, he said, “empower students with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in the 21st century, and they connect them to people, languages, and experiences beyond their home borders. “

As a teacher I try to prepare my students to succeed in the 21st century. Yet, on World Educator Day, I find myself inspired to model 21st century skills for my students by connecting with teachers across different languages and beyond borders at the local and global level just as Secretary Duncan did with his colleagues from around the globe at the international summits.

Do you know of ways to connect with teachers in other countries?

Lisa Clarke is 2012-2013 Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellow on loan to the Department from Kent, Washington.

Learning International Lessons in Principal and Teacher Preparation

International Summit on the Teaching Profession

International Summit on the Teaching Profession. Photo by Andy Kropa for the Department of Education.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan joined education leaders from twenty-three high-performing, rapidly-improving countries in New York City last week. Over the course of two days, each country shared ideas and successful, innovative practices for teacher preparation and school leader development during the second-ever International Summit on the Teaching Profession.

Just last year, the Department held the first Summit, bringing together not just national education ministers, but also union leaders in partnership with teachers, and education experts to help to shape the conversation. Through a public discourse, participants identified common challenges in education across different countries and cultures while also laying out the need for systematic reform.

The lessons learned from the practices of high-performing systems during last year’s Summit, had a big impact in the United States. It helped lay the groundwork for a new Obama Administration project called RESPECT, which stands for Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence, and Collaborative Teaching.

Last month, President Obama proposed this new competitive grant program to empower states and districts that commit to pursuing bold reforms at every stage of the teaching profession. Throughout the planning, teachers themselves had—and will continue to have—a major voice in shaping RESPECT. The Department’s team of Teaching Ambassador Fellows—active classroom teachers who spend a year working at the U.S. Department of Education—have already held more than 100 roundtable meetings with teachers across the country and will hold several more in the coming months. The development of RESPECT also benefitted enormously from the input of American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten, and from National Education Association (NEA) President Dennis Van Roekel’s and his leadership in the NEA’s Commission on Effective Teachers and Teaching.

Translators at the International Summit on the Teaching Profession

Translators at the International Summit on the Teaching Profession. Photo by Andy Kropa for the Department of Education.

This year’s Summit reaffirmed the central role that school leaders and teachers play in successfully implementing reform to improve student learning and why the RESPECT project is so important to the United States. We heard, for example, from the head of Singapore’s National Institute of Education who talked about the knowledge, skills and values teachers need to be able to engage 21st century learners. Teachers in Singapore open their classrooms to colleagues to watch and listen so they can all work together to improve teaching and learning rather than closing their doors and working in isolation. This is truly a collaborative way to promote educational success and excellence and one the U.S. can work to emulate.

Certain practices and policies were repeated throughout the Summit like the need to attract talent to education through competitive pay scales and career-ladders; the benefits of providing support through school-to-school, principal-to-principal, and teacher-to-teacher networks; and the large-scale value of identifying high-level, common standards that are consistent from pre-K through high school in order to prepare students for college and careers.

With these great challenges come great opportunities. Engaging with international education leaders has contributed valuable insight and input that will help the U.S. continue our work to elevate our nation’s education system. Accomplishing this broad, imperative goal will depend on our ability to attract and retain great talent over the short term so the U.S. can effectively shape public education for generations to come.

We look forward to continuing the conversation at the next Summit, which will be convened by the Netherlands in Amsterdam in 2013.

Click here for more information on the International Summit on the Teaching Profession, and click here to read Secretary Duncan’s opening remarks.

Liz Utrup is the Assistant Press Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education

21st Century Skills: A Global Imperative

This is our reality.

In many urban areas our graduation rates hover around fifty percent. Nearly forty percent of our students need remediation in college after they graduate from high school. We have one million students dropping out of school each year. And recently, President Obama pointed out that there are U.S. businesses eager to hire, but they simply can’t find American workers with the right skills.

International Summit LogoSomething is amiss. America’s students are clearly not workforce ready.

And we’re not alone in the conversation.

This week, education ministers, national union heads, and teacher leaders from over 20 countries around the world will eagerly descend on New York City for the 2nd annual International Summit on the Teaching Profession co-hosted by the Department of Education, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and Education International (EI) with the support of the National Education Association (NEA), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, (NBPTS), Asia Society, and WNET.

The Summit will engage the international community in rigorous discussions around how we can better train and develop quality teachers to improve student achievement. Developing school leaders, matching the supply and demand of quality teachers, and delivering 21st century skills are the three key themes.

“It’s clear that no two countries are the same,” Secretary Duncan said, “but that doesn’t mean we don’t face common challenges.”

These countries are gathering because they recognize that the demands of a 21st century world call for thoughtful change in how we do education.

Summit hosts will ask nations to talk about the competencies teachers need to teach 21st century skills and how teacher preparation programs can prepare teachers for a 21st century classroom that not only incorporates, but demands, more focus on critical thinking, STEM, foreign language, collaborative problem-solving, and technology literacy.

The International Summit on the Teaching Profession represents an extraordinary achievement for the education dialogue. It’s the second time in history that ministers, union leaders and educators sit down together in one space at one time to discuss, share ideas, and problem-solve some of our biggest challenges in education as a unified front.

During the recent launch of Project RESPECT Secretary Duncan said, “No other profession carries a greater burden for securing our economic future.” Agreed.

As teachers, we want our students to succeed and be college and career-ready. But we want our definition of success to be meaningful. This Summit provides the opportunity for us to glean insights from other countries about what would be particularly helpful to teachers and teacher policy in the US to help all students to be more successful.

By bringing together high performing and rapidly improving countries from around the world, jointly represented by their teachers and educational leaders, I am hopeful the U.S. can discover real solutions for developing 21st century teacher and school leader workforces through effective practices that transcend differences among cultures and countries.

Claire Jellinek is a 9th-12th grade social studies teacher at South Valley Academy in Albuquerque, NM and a 2011-2012 Washington Teaching Ambassador Fellow.