Magazine article Insight on the News

Show a Little Respect

Magazine article Insight on the News

Show a Little Respect

Article excerpt

The nation's top business executives are calling on policymakers and education leaders to help teachers achieve greater autonomy, more pay and, most of ail, a higher status.

With education at the top of President Bush's agenda, and several education bills under consideration by Congress, the national climate is ripe for raising the profile and respect of teaching to a higher level, say members of the Business Roundtable, the National Alliance of Business, the National Association of Manufacturers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The groups recently released a joint study that calls for a national "renaissance" for educators, whose status, they fear, is diminishing.

"Our extensive dialogue with educators, policymakers and fellow business leaders has shown the need for a renaissance in teaching," says Edward B. Rust Jr., chairman and chief executive officer of State Farm Insurance Cos., who serves as chairman of the Business Roundtable's Education Task Force. "We won't get there without major changes in our systems for preparing, supporting and compensating teachers."

During the last few years, the academic-standards movement has been successful in raising the bar on student achievement in the states. Putting the best-qualified teachers in the nation's classrooms, say the business executives, is the next logical step in the implementation of much-needed reforms.

The report, Investing in Teaching, makes detailed recommendations that the business leaders say should be used as a framework to guide teacher preparation and professional development. It calls for new "models" in three areas: teacher training and professional development, pay that is tied to performance and a school environment that allows greater decision-making freedom for teachers. Its specific recommendations include:

* Raising admission requirements for prospective teacher education students, including a 3.0 grade point average in the first two years of college.

* Eliminating the "education" major and requiring teachers to complete an academic major and one minor in a basic elementary-school subject.

* Requiring all teachers to pass subject-matter tests and requiring all teacher education programs to be accredited.

* Ending the common practice of assigning inexperienced teachers to the worst-performing classes.

* Revamping pay scales to offer more money to those who assume school leadership roles, such as mentors and lead teachers, and paying more to those teachers who agree to work in low-performing and hard-to-staff schools.

* Overhauling evaluations so they are fair and offering contracts that are time-specific and include specific job expectations. …

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