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News Brief

Monday, July 07, 2014

CCSSO Executive Director Speaks at Roundtable Discussion on Teacher Equity

Contact:Melissa McGrathmelissa.mcgrath@ccsso.org202-336-7034

Washington, D.C. (July 7, 2014) -- Chris Minnich, Executive Director of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), spoke today at the U.S. Department of Education's Roundtable Discussion on Teacher Equity. The following are his full prepared remarks from the discussion today:

I would like to start by saying that while today's public education landscape is changing quickly, CCSSO and our members are committed to ensuring that every child - regardless of his or her background - makes significant measurable progress to be ready for college and career.

Our members know, not just from research, but from first-hand experience just how critical it is to have a great teacher in every classroom.

I personally believe that the conversation we're having today - about improving educator effectiveness and promoting equitable access to effective teaching - is one of the most important conversations that we can have.  Too often, the students who need the most help - predominantly our students of color and students living in poverty - do not have access to the most prepared teachers. If we are to reach our goal of preparing all students for success in college, career, and life, we have to address this disparity head on.

That is why CCSSO and states are focused on comprehensive efforts to support great teaching and improve educator effectiveness for all students. As part of this work, CCSSO recently convened a working group comprised of state chiefs, the U.S. Department of Education and leading civil rights organizations such as the National Council of La Raza, the Education Trust, the National Urban League and others to carefully examine how our state education systems can be improved to meet this need.

In order to provide every child with a great teacher, we must be fair to teachers up front and provide them with stronger preparation and ongoing professional learning that allows them to be successful in their classroom. Teacher candidates need first-hand experiences during their preparation working with a diverse group of students in a variety of different environments.

These experiences should be shepherded by mentors who model effective instructional practice and coach prospective teachers on how to engage students in learning. Teachers should be prepared on day one to positively impact student learning and should continue to get more sophisticated in their practice as they continue in the profession.

States are committed to elevating successful practice and working to bring them to scale across the country.  Policies should be enacted to strengthen effective programs and pathways into the teaching profession. We also need to ensure that these programs are aligned with our commitment to preparing teachers to serve high-need students and create more pathways for the most effective and committed educators to enter the highest need schools. We also need to provide support to those teachers in high-need schools to cut down on the historic high turnover rates in these schools.  

But improving teacher preparation and ongoing support for teachers is not enough. Ensuring a great teacher in every classroom requires a comprehensive approach that fits the needs in each state and is targeted to places that need them most.  For example, solutions that work in urban settings may or may not work in rural areas.  We must grapple with the complexity of this problem in order to solve it. Any federal efforts in this area must allow the states to lead the way.

So let's talk in real terms about a way forward.

There are foundational actions that each state should take as part of broader educator effectiveness efforts to focus specifically on the issue of equitable access. Let me be specific on three of these foundational pieces.

First, it's critical to actively engage the community and key stakeholders, have public conversations on the issues identified, and work with stakeholders to develop plans to improve instructional effectiveness and close achievement gaps.  This includes work with and through district leaders, who have important authority and responsibility for improving educator effectiveness and access to effective teachers.

Second, we need clear data. States should collect and publicly report timely, actionable data on student learning and the recruitment and retention of effective teachers. These data will inform state and school district efforts to ensure each student is guided in their learning and reaches the goal of college and career readiness upon high school graduation. Steps should be taken to provide appropriate privacy protections that prevent identification of individual teachers and students.

Third, work needs to be done with school districts and community representatives to set goals for improvement and, more importantly, put in place an action plan to achieve those goals as part of each state's and district's broader efforts to improve educator effectiveness. Goals should include action steps for closing gaps in access to effective instruction, with attention given to both between district and within district gaps. It should also give guidance on improving working conditions and providing a support system for teachers who take on the challenge of working in environments where we have the greatest needs. The focus of these plans should not be on compliance but on continuous improvement to promote innovation, evaluation, and refinement to best achieve goals over time.

Let me say it again: This is one of the most important conversations we can have in our efforts to ensure that all students are making measurable progress.

We are proud of the work being done by our states and with our partners - many of whom are here today.   In order to further our collective work, CCSSO will be releasing recommendations on how to improve equitable access, based on the work within states and informed by our partners in the civil rights community who have dedicated themselves to the success of all students.

For some time, states have been leading the way in setting and implementing higher standards and stronger assessments across the country. Ensuring that all children across the country have access to the best instruction is a critical next step for state leadership.  We look forward to working with our partners in ensuring our goals are realized.

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The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) is a nonpartisan, nationwide, nonprofit organization of public officials who head departments of elementary and secondary education in the states, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and five U.S. extra-state jurisdictions. CCSSO provides leadership, advocacy, and technical assistance on major educational issues. The Council seeks member consensus on major educational issues and expresses their views to civic and professional organizations, federal agencies, Congress, and the public.