Relief for Teachers
As the pandemic disrupted the lives of families across the country, many turned to their public schools for critical sources of support. The pandemic caused financial instability, increased food insecurity, and exacerbated educational inequities that existed well before the pandemic.
With little time to prepare, teachers and administrators responded to these crises with urgency. With just a few days' notice, they transformed curricula into online formats, conducted well checks, made at-home visits, expanded families' technological infrastructure, held collections for families in need, and implemented meal programs.
No federal agency did this. No state agency did this. Our ground-zero, frontline teachers were able to solve these issues because they are the professionals. Our federal education policies must support our teachers - not undermine them.
• Restrict the use of standardized tests when calculating teacher effectiveness scores
• Abolish federal standardized test mandates
• Cancel student loan debt
• Improve tax benefits for purchased materials
• Incentivize smaller class sizes and later start times
• Strengthen protections for adjunct faculty
Teacher Effectiveness and Standardized Test Scores
Several states rate teachers’ effectiveness by their students’ standardized test scores: If students perform well, teachers are rated effective; if students perform poorly, teachers are rated ineffective. These efforts were purportedly motivated by the need to hold teachers accountable, but they’re misguided and demoralize the teaching profession.
This is because no matter the intervention a teacher implements – no matter how much extra tutoring a teacher offers – there are barriers to learning that exist beyond a teacher’s control. Students living in poverty are less likely to score well on standardized test. This certainly doesn’t mean their teacher is ineffective. Standardized test scores should be ineligible variables when calculating teacher effectiveness.
Abolishing Standardized Test Mandates
Teachers often differentiate their manners of assessment. This is good practice because students have diverse learning styles; how one student best demonstrates proficiency is likely different from how another student does. Despite this reality, standardized tests require students to demonstrate their proficiency in a prescribed format, in a prescribed medium, and in a prescribed amount of time. Because of this, their validity is often challenged.
School systems are often judged by test scores and teachers carry the weight of this pressure. This results in test drilling and teaching to the test – techniques that may improve test scores, but ones that do not improve education. Abolishing the standardized test mandate encourages curricular freedom and discourages the sterilization of education.
Cancel Student Loan Debt
The rising costs of college tuition is a growing burden for teachers. In fact, many are carrying student loan debt into their retirement years. Teachers do not enter the profession to get rich; they enter the profession because of a passion for service. Without relief, our country’s prospective teachers will have to confront the weight of student loan debt with modest average teaching salaries. We must do what we can to retain talented educators and recruit new ones.
Incentivize Best Practices
The research is irrefutable. Smaller class sizes have a positive impact on student learning. Starting school later has a positive impact on student learning. Federal financial incentives can compel school districts to modify their routines to implement best practices that are usually dismissed because of logistical and financial challenges.
Raise Wages with Federal Investments
In 2021, the Batesville School District retained faculty by raising wages. This was accomplished by upgrading to carbonless energy which saved more than $300,000.00 annually. Federal grants should help school districts achieve similar goals because the benefit is reciprocal: the federal government makes progress towards achieving net-zero carbon emissions, new green jobs are created, school districts benefit from upgraded infrastructure, and teachers are retained with higher wages.