Live from Summit 2013 – More Teachers Needed!

As one might have guessed from its title,”Millions and Millions of Great Teachers Needed: How Will We Meet this Need,” this Summit 2013 afternoon panel discussion focused on the critical question of meeting the growing demand for high-quality teachers. Kaya Henderson of D.C. Public Schools moderated this superb panel of experts on the subject of teacher training and preparation including Elisa Villanueva Beard, who gave a Learning in 2028 presentation, Jennifer Green of the Urban Teacher Center, Ellen Moir of the New Teacher Center, Richard Nyankori of the Insight Education Group and Diane Tavenner of Summit Public Schools. And of course, thanks to Reba Dominski of Target for providing an insightful introduction for each of our panelists.

So how will we as schools, communities, regions, states and as a nation meet this need for more than 3,000,000 teachers – knowing that the single most important factor in student achievement is teachers?

First, to establish the baseline, the panelist spoke to the question of where we are going wrong. As Tavenner said, “we are trying to make teachers to be super heroes.” Nyankori thinks we’re looking at teacher turnover under the wrong lens. To Moir – we are spending too much money on ineffective professional development (PD). And Green says we are, “Asking teachers to teach too many students.”

Back to our question, what should we be doing differently?

According to the panelist, some key principles need to be addressed. Teacher pipelines from day one need to establish that their success should be directly determined by student success. For PD, we should stop doing PD for the sake of PD – one size should not fit all. As Moir says, “We need to focus on what is most important.” Continuing, Moir spoke strongly about the perception of the vocation, saying, “First and foremost, we must build a teaching profession that is truly honored and valued.” The incentives to stay in the teaching professional need to become stronger than the incentives to leave.

In a perfect world, what would our panelists’ one wish be to get to the three million teachers needed? For Villanueva Beard, there are too many actions needed for one wish, but tying teacher success to student performance is the start. For Tavenner – tear down the walls. For Moir – recruit wisely and make sure the system actually supports them holding everyone accountable to student learning (she has more than one or two). And Nyankori? It’s all about the quality of leadership in the building to cultivate the talent and make them want to stay.

However, there is no magic wand, and this is a deeply complex issue as Henderson points out. But as she said, “If we work hard and do it right, we will have the opportunity to dramatically increase the number of high-quality teachers in the classroom.”