This guest opinion originally ran in the Portland Business Journal on February 24 and was co-authored by Michele Oakes and Martha Richards, former members of the Governor's Council on Educator Advancement.
The most competitive businesses stay successful by making sure their workforce is well trained and effective. They hire the best and offer ongoing training to ensure their employees have the skills and knowledge they need to succeed.
Many careers prioritize ongoing professional learning and training as well. A surgeon continues learning well beyond her college and residency years. Her patients depend on it. A gymnast would never compete for medals without a rigorous training regimen.
Teachers also need continuing education and support that is critical in so many other professions. Their job continues to be increasingly complex. From new curriculums to new technologies, teachers face ever-increasing demands and expectations. They are expected to reach every child on their own terms, even as schools become more racially and culturally diverse, with more students coming from socioeconomic hardship, and many requiring special education services. They are tasked with the challenge of ensuring students leave school with the skills they need to compete in this innovation- powered, high-tech world.
Countries with the highest ranked education systems in the world, such as Finland or Japan, place much greater priority on educator training and development than the U.S. Research tells us the most effective professional learning is designed and delivered by teachers themselves, and embedded in their workday in ways that are relevant to their needs and priorities. A third-year kindergarten teacher is probably going to need something different from a mid-career high school physics teacher. Wouldn’t it be ideal if we could create a system that offered teachers precision training, and in most cases, involved collaborating with colleagues?
Oregon currently lacks a consistent, comprehensive statewide strategy for supporting teachers in their professional learning. Too much training takes the form of top-down, “sit-and-get” workshops and conferences that generate many great ideas but don’t meet their classroom needs.
We have an opportunity to change this. Senate Bill 182 takes a step in the right direction by establishing a new strategy to guide investment in the professional learning of Oregon’s nearly 30,000 schoolteachers. The bill reflects recommendations from the Governor’s Council on Educator Advancement, an advisory committee in which we both participated.
SB182 represents a major shift and promises to raise the bar for teachers by improving and coordinating existing programs, and making high quality, culturally responsive professional learning the expectation and norm for every teacher in every part of our state. This legislation critically needs the support of every individual and organization that believes in a prosperous future for all Oregonians.
An effective teacher is the single most important in-school factor in student success. Empowering them to do their jobs means Oregon’s children will get the top-notch teachers they deserve.
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