State policy has to work directly on the ways that leadership, culture, collaboration, professional development, and evaluations contribute to teachers becoming increasingly skilled at their chosen craft.Two thoughts loaded into that sentence are worth unpacking.
First, the most important improvement for students will come from our current teachers and administrators refining their work. The main steps forward are about them developing greater and deeper skills, about nurturing stronger teaching, not about finding stronger teachers.
Second, the most important new strength for each individual educator must come from other educators. Last fall, WUKY reported on a new center working on muscle health, bringing together researchers from multiple disciplines so that they can (as a participating doctor put it) "get smarter off of each other." That's exactly what educators do in professional learning communities. It's what great leadership enables and what healthy school cultures ensure. The big growth we want for students is the kind "happens in teams or not at all."
Yes, actively recruiting young people of great talent into the profession is a good idea--but there's rich, deep talent already in the field. Yes, flexible certification options and better compensation can be good investments--but amazing people come through the current system and work hard for current pay and benefits. And sure, there are some people currently in our classrooms who should not be there--but those people are far rarer than those who are dedicated to children, already skilled in their work, and willing and able to grow more skilled as their careers progress and their schools focus more deeply on excellence.
For Labor Day weekend, here's a voice of appreciation for the thousands and thousands of Kentuckians who teach our children well now and who will find ways to teach our children even more effectively in the years ahead.