Civil Discourse Prompts
Are regional disparities in professionalization inevitable?
Would teacher professionalization be advanced by uniform standards?
Do we trust anyone to set education standards and professionalization components?
Maddie Fennell Executive Director
Nebraska State Education Association

Maddie Fennell is the executive director of the Nebraska State Education Association, a National Board Certified teacher, the 2007 Nebraska Teacher of the Year, and a 27-year educator in Omaha Public Schools. Maddie spent three years on special assignment to the U.S. Department of Education as a Teacher Leader in Residence in the Office of the Secretary and a Teaching Ambassador Fellow.

Kate Walsh President
National Council on Teacher Quality

Kate Walsh has served as the president of the National Council on Teacher Quality since 2003, leading work to ensure that every child has equal access to effective teachers. At NCTQ, Walsh has spearheaded efforts to instill greater transparency and higher standards among those institutions that exert influence and authority over teachers. A long-time resident of Baltimore, Walsh has also served on the Maryland State School Board.

Teaching isn’t child’s play.
We can agree that the teaching profession suffers from both low status as a career choice and relatively low pay. Where there tends to be a lot less agreement are the remedies.

On the problem of low status, most of the remedies to date have involved a lot of talking at one another, mixed with a hefty dose of public shaming, deeming some perspectives as “anti-teacher.” However, teaching’s root challenge is not that it is too little celebrated, nor is its problem the lack of a Madison Avenue-style marketing campaign selling its benefits.

Maddie’s Response

While I agree that teaching “continues to be stigmatized as a lesser career,” I disagree with the premise that raising the bar to entry would “galvanize the movement for higher pay.”

Research confirms that students taught by National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) learn more than students taught by other teachers. A 2014 PDK/Gallup Poll found that “81% of Americans across the political spectrum believe teachers should achieve Board certification, beyond licensure, as it is in other professions.”

Yet, only 25 states provide compensation for this rigorous assessment.

Since we aren’t adequately compensating those who are attaining rigorous certification, I struggle to believe that raising education admission standards will cause a commensurate change in teacher salaries.

Kate’s Response

Our points of agreement are far more common than disagreements. Teachers need a defined body of knowledge to follow — which is why the National Council on Teacher Quality put forward standards for our “Teacher Prep Review.” Please take a look, Maddie!

Yes on intrastate portability for NBPTS teachers — and other high performers! Compensation must be addressed — not just low base pay but also strategic pay. Better evaluation, yes! Focus on equity, yes! Peer assistance and review is fine except its outcomes have been disappointing, which may explain why it hasn’t grabbed hold. I’m all for residencies, but I like to remind people of the high price tag — $65,000 per candidate. Why not improve student teaching, which costs very little? All in all, Maddie, we are on the same page!


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