President Obama was interested in learning more about the K-12 teacher experience and ways the federal government can improve the education system. In pursuit of a solution to this problem, Mr. President invited four school teachers to have lunch with him and the U.S. Secretary of Education at the White House. Each of the four teachers had a least ten years of experience. They also spent that duration of their careers in areas considered to have high-need students. One teacher from Springdale, Arkansas and one from Washington, D.C. took some time to speak with Ed Week to share some details of their experience.
A few specific questions were raised by the President:
- Is there too much standardized testing for students?
- How can the education profession be improved?
- Why did these teachers specifically continue to work with “needy” populations over such long time span?
- What can the federal government do to assist teachers who work in those environments?
- How can the government encourage teachers to continue their work in this setting for many years?
The teachers provided a lot of valuable insight to President Obama’s questions. Fifth grade teacher Dwight Davis from Washington, D.C. stated that standardized testing can be helpful to gage a student’s abilities and progress. However, certain tests only provide results that don’t specify any of that information. A few ways the profession can be improved overall is to incorporate more opportunities for teachers to work together and share ideas. Justin Minkel, a second grade teacher from Arkansas also pointed out that although some teachers may need to improve their teaching skills, there are no bad teachers. The majority of teachers genuinely care about their student’s progress. Lastly, while it seems the teachers did not go into depth about why working in high need areas was a long term choice for them, they did point out some valuable disadvantages. The lack of authority the teachers have in the classroom is a primary issue. They feel they aren’t able to be as independent as professionals in other fields. That is a central deflection point for many in these types of roles.
To read more commentary and to find out what was served for lunch in the White House, check out the Ed Week article here:http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/campaign-k-12/2014/07/what_if_you_got_a.html