by Paul Toner, President of the VIVA Project
An update of the ESEA is long overdue, and this week, the Senate has a real chance to improve it with the following bipartisan amendments based on the wisdom and input of classroom educators, written in collaboration with the Teaching Policy Fellows at Teach Plus.
First, the Bennet-Collins Teacher Leadership Amendment would enable states to use Title II funds for teacher leadership training. In our own VIVA Idea Exchanges™, teachers have consistently asked for more opportunities for evidence-based professional development, more time to serve as mentors and coaches, and more chances to collaborate.
In our latest VIVA Idea Exchange™ on the Common Core, for instance, teachers across the country said, “Often [professional development] opportunities take the form of one-off workshops, where information is presented in one day with little or no follow-through…[but] professional development must be sustained over time and embedded within regular work hours. Teachers require the opportunity to work together on departmental and grade-level teams to interpret the standards and develop resources and curricula that align with their school’s mission and vision.”
Just imagine the difference $2.5 billion per year could make when put toward professional development, both internal and external. This amendment would allow all 50 states to gage which schools need the most help creating teacher and principal leadership opportunities, and then allocate Title II funds as it sees fit, including to third-party nonprofit organizations.
Second, the STEM Master Teacher Corps Act, will ensure that schools find and keep STEM teachers while helping them serve as mentors and role models, and ensuring they have enough time during regular school hours to serve in leadership and mentor positions, instead of increased responsibilities after school.
Third, the Baldwin-Cassidy SMART Act (Support Making Assessments Reliable and Timely) will reduce over-testing, one of the key concerns of our VIVA teachers in the latest VIVA Idea Exchange™ on the Common Core. The SMART Act will take a data-based approach to make sure student assessments are well-aligned with standards, curricula, and that they never conflict with a teacher’s need for plenty of instructional, planning, and collaboration time.
Finally, the Bennet-Hatch Innovation Amendment will allow teachers and schools to embrace innovative programs by providing funding for the ones that show promise. In our VIVA Idea Exchanges™, teachers have expressed their excitement for new and different ways to improve student learning and close achievement gaps, and this amendment would make those kinds of groundbreaking programs easier to implement and reproduce.
If you believe, like we do, that teachers deserve more opportunities for career growth, more autonomy in deciding what works best for students, and a better student assessment strategy, make sure your senator knows how you feel before these ESEA amendments hit the senate floor later this week.