VIVA National Task Force: Voices From the Classroom

Download the PDF "Voices from the Classroom"On Friday, December 17, 2010, members of the VIVA National Task Force presented their report, Voices from the Classroom, during a meeting with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. This report is based on recommendations from more than 150 teachers who registered and contributed to the VIVA Idea Exchange. The six VIVA National Task Force members were selected based on their experience as classroom teachers and their contributions to the online forum.

Download Full Report as a PDF

Executive Summary

Clinical Training for Teachers
There should be a national teacher education curriculum and all novice teachers should be given structured, systematic support. The quality of teacher education programs in the United States must meet rigorous national standards that provide all teachers with an exceptional theoretical foundation, paired with research-based, hands-on clinical training. Then, novice teachers in their first two years in the classroom should be supported by master teachers, co-teaching opportunities, and increased time for collaboration and planning.

All teachers benefit from self-selected and differentiated professional development.
Teachers should be allowed to choose their own professional development. When teachers have a skill deficit which cannot be addressed by professional development or administrative support, they need “targeted teacher remediation”
that should include intensive, multiweek remediation on specialized topics.

Consideration of Performance-Based Compensation Systems
Performance-based compensation is perhaps the thorniest issue in education today. Performance-based compensation can take many forms, including nonmonetary incentives, such as allowing more individual creativity and choice in curricular decisions and giving excellent teachers the opportunity to use professional development time for projects of their own choosing. As for monetary incentives, if cash bonuses prove too expensive for local districts, the federal government should consider rewarding excellent teachers with a tax credit, with a multiplier used as an incentive for consecutive years of achieving excellent ratings. Smaller cash bonuses or tax credits should be awarded to those who teach in struggling schools, take on master or mentor teacher roles, and/or earn National Board Certification.

Effective Teacher and Administrator Evaluations
There are four important reasons to conduct teacher/administrator evaluations: 1) provide meaningful feedback from all stakeholders in all aspects of the educational experience; 2) inform administration’s decisions on hiring, firing, compensation, tenure and staffing decisions; 3) identify educators and administrators who need extra support in the form of professional development or outside support; and 4) document which pedagogical practices lead to the highest rates of student growth.

Time, money and energy should be spent on targeted outcomes instead of trends. This would allow tax dollars to be spent where they are really needed instead of continuing to waste money on programs that don’t work by investing in the latest trend.

Appropriate Support for Teachers
Over the past half-century, societal change has created an increased number of students entering the classroom with socio-emotional barriers to learning. Meanwhile, a stressed economy has left schools short-staffed. As a result, teachers are expected to take on many roles, from nurse to secretary. To ensure student success requires additional funding for qualified teaching, administrative, and support (social work, guidance, clerical, and special education) staff, and providing adequate and current resources for positive learning environments.

Parent and Community Partnerships
Parents who are informed, involved, and invested in the educational process of their children contribute significantly to successful student outcomes. Ensuring that requires on-site parent coordinators for all schools and schools must have the funds to become community resources.

Recommendations included in this report

  • Create a national teacher education curriculum
  • Provide new teachers with structure, systematic support
  • Provide “targeted teacher remediation” to struggling teachers
  • Be creative about performance-based compensation
  • Invest in parent and community involvement programs

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