Former Dean Richard Schwab Joins National Commission in Issuing Urgent Call for Action to Address Future of Teaching in the U.S.
Today, between a quarter and a half of new teachers in the U.S. leave the field of teaching within their first four or five years on the job, with teacher turnover incurring costs of more than $2 billion each year. Meanwhile, a mere 5 percent of high schoolers say they intend to pursue careers as educators, according to recent findings — all of this while the achievement gap between high- and low-income students has continued to expand even further over the past 25 years.
“We have spent billions, passing endless pieces of reform legislation at the state and national level — yet still we have not succeeded in supporting and enhancing the teaching profession to the degree we must if we are to achieve the lofty goals all of us have for our nation’s schools,” says Richard L. Schwab, former dean of the Neag School and a longtime commissioner for The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF), a nonprofit that aims to engage education policymakers and practitioners to address the entrenched national challenge of recruiting, developing, and retaining great teachers in order to ensure that all students have access to quality teaching.
Schwab has joined fellow commissioners of NCTAF in shaping a national report, released this week, that addresses the current challenges facing the future of teaching. The report — titled “What Matters Now: A New Compact for Teaching and Learning” — outlines a series of recommendations focused on improving the system of teaching and learnings in the U.S. in the coming years.
“This document is a research-based, common-sense roadmap for making the necessary changes in our educational system to enhance life for our future generations and to maintain economic prosperity in the new global economy,” Schwab says.
Recommendations on Advancing Teacher Preparation
“We must come together to demand that every child in America has access to schools designed for deep, rigorous, personalized learning led by competent, caring teachers,” states the report. Included among the newly issued report’s recommended action steps are the following:
- Policymakers should establish and broadly communicate a new compact with teachers.
- States and districts should codify and track whether all schools are “organized for success.”
- Teacher preparation should be more relevant and clinically based.
- States should support all new teachers with multi-year induction and high-quality mentoring.
Among other key ideas covered in the report is a “new vision for teaching and learning where schools emphasize skills and knowledge needed for the 21st century – not the memorization of static knowledge, but the ability to be self-directed learners and problem solvers,” Schwab says.
“Our new report brings us back to our core belief that every child deserves a caring, qualified, and competent teacher, and that all of us must do everything we can to support teacher’s efforts to enhance student learning,” he adds. “This support includes job-embedded and research-based teacher preparation programs, structuring schools so that teachers can work collaboratively to address the complex challenges they face every day in and outside the classroom, as well as providing meaningful professional growth and learning opportunities.”
A Call to Collective Action
Schwab and his fellow NCTAF commissioners this week gathered with invited guests in Washington, D.C., to discuss the report in further detail, including the current education climate; the Every Student Succeeds Act and the changing policy landscape; a systematic approach that supports great teaching for all students; and recommendations and strategies for moving teaching and learning forward. The report itself issues a call to collective action — ultimately in order to ensure that all students have access to great teaching.
Schwab, who has served as a NCTAF commissioner since 2001 and on the board of directors since 2009, also was involved in developing No Dream Denied: A Pledge to America’s Children, NCTAF’s 2003 report calling for schools, districts, and policymakers to address the chronic conditions that make schools hard to staff. Schwab’s fellow NCTAF commissioners include former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley; Ted Sanders, retired president of the Education Commission of the States; as well as educators; activists; leaders in education reform; and others.
“We must move the focus from doing things to teachers that have no effect, or worse, make their jobs more difficult, to providing support that is research-based, consistent, and focused, and that fully engages teachers in designing the support they need and deserve,” adds Schwab.
The newly released “What Matters Now” report comes more than 30 years after the release of the National Commission on Excellence in Education’s 1983 report, Nation at Risk: The Imperative of Education Reform.
“While we are not the first group to suggest the education system needs to change, we are recommending that action be taken based on many years of collective research and experience,” says Melinda George, NCTAF president. “We strongly believe that we have reached a moment in time where we need to muster the collective will to make that change happen. We know what great teaching and learning should look like. Now we need to stop saying it, and actually do it to ensure every student is prepared for college, career and life.
Access the full report — titled What Matters Now: A New Compact for Teaching and Learning” — here.