This spring, teacher walkouts in states across the country have dominated our news feeds. A Google search for “RedForEd” pulls nearly a quarter of a million hits. In less than three months, thousands of teachers have swarmed state capitol buildings, calling for higher pay and more funding for their schools and students. Other issues facing teachers — such as large class sizes, potentially burdensome testing requirements and limited time for instructional planning and peer-to-peer mentoring — have also been elevated at marches and protests.
Research is clear that dissatisfaction in the teaching profession contributes to turnover and attrition, and exacerbates already present teacher shortages. But this research is nothing new to state policymakers. And the good news is leaders across the country — even in states experiencing strikes and walkouts — are working hard to elevate the teaching profession and improve the teaching experience. State leaders are rethinking everything from teacher preparation to development and advancement, and are improving their systems in the hopes of recruiting, supporting, recognizing and retaining excellent teachers. For example, within the past year:
- Arkansas passed legislation, permitting the state board of education to create a tiered system of licensure for teachers, and allowing school districts to provide salary increases for teachers as they advance from one tier to the next.
- Alabama passed legislation, increasing teacher salaries, providing supplemental pay for National Board Certified teachers, appropriating funds for teacher mentoring and professional development and establishing a loan repayment program for certain teachers.
- Connecticut passed legislation, providing significant flexibility to districts to establish professional development activities aligned to district goals.
- Iowa passed legislation, creating higher standards for educator preparation programs and strengthening clinical experience requirements for teacher candidates.
- New Mexico passed legislation, establishing minimum salary requirements for teachers and increasing their pay.
- West Virginia passed legislation, increasing teacher pay and substantially revising and providing new funding for teacher professional development systems.
Despite headlines to the contrary, policymakers have not given up on teachers or their students. This week, #ThankATeacher who is working tirelessly to make a difference in the lives of students, and maybe even #ThankAPolicymaker who is working tirelessly to make a difference in the lives of teachers.