Built for Teachers
How the Blueprint for Reform Empowers Educators
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How the Blueprint for Reform Empowers Educators

The Blueprint for Reform is designed to meet the needs of students while accomplishing objectives that teachers have been concerned about for a long time.

Respecting Teachers as the Professionals They Are

Our Challenge: We all know that not all teachers are alike, nor should they be. Yet, for too long, many educators have been treated like cogs in the system, interchangeably generic employees whose strengths and contributions go largely unnoticed. Unlike evaluations in other professions, teacher performance reviews don't provide meaningful feedback, and they have little to no impact on your professional development. Furthermore, the most effective teachers are generally not rewarded for doing a great job or for taking on greater responsibilities.

The Blueprint's New Direction:

Recognizing the Importance of Teachers. The Blueprint is based on two principles that we all know are true: 1) Great teachers matter; and 2) Not all teachers are equally effective.

Under this plan, teachers are recognized and supported as unique professionals. Principals and other school leaders will take the time (and they should be given the training) to evaluate teachers comprehensively and fairly based on individual performance. The plan proposes that evaluations be based on multiple measures, acknowledge successes, provide meaningful feedback, inform staff development and staffing decisions, offer teachers more responsibility, and compensate them more reasonably. Teachers deserve to be evaluated fairly and paid for the hard work they do.

Broadening the Curriculum

Our Challenge: No Child Left Behind's focus on Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) has put history, the arts, and other critical subjects on the back burner. Schools spend far too much time on tests and not enough on lessons that foster engagement, critical thinking, and a well-rounded education.

The Blueprint's New Direction:

Better Assessments. The Department is investing $350 million in support for states to develop better assessments that measure complex skills, ensuring that students are gaining the knowledge and skills they need in the real world—not just filling in bubbles. New assessments may include performance items, such as portfolios and projects. States are encouraged to work with a coalition of state colleges and universities to create standards that are fair and to ensure that students who meet them have the skills to succeed in college and careers.

Painting With a Broad Brush. The effect of the Blueprint will be to broaden what teachers teach, not limit it. Because most schools will have relief from the relentless emphasis on year-to-year test scores, teachers and principals will be able to focus on ensuring a high-quality education for every student, including long-neglected subjects like art and foreign languages. The Blueprint also will provide funding to support high-quality instruction in these subjects, especially in our highest-need schools. Finally, because states will have the flexibility to include a range of academic subjects in their accountability systems, teachers of these subjects will no longer feel ignored.

Using Data the Right Way

Our Challenge: Teachers can speak for hours about the misuse of testing data: requiring all students to be on the same level all at once, labeling schools and teachers as failures even if scores are growing, using scores as the sole measurement of success, and teaching to the test.

The Blueprint's New Direction:

Focus on Growth. The Blueprint for Reform encourages schools to use data in fundamentally different ways. Schools are measured not only by achievement level but also by growth. Under this plan, if a teacher helps a fifth-grade student's reading to move from a second-grade to a fourth-grade level, he or she is not labeled as a failure but as a model for others to emulate. And progress over time will matter—one bad year will no longer cause a school to be identified as "failing" because data from several years are reviewed to determine how a school is doing.

Empowering Teachers and Schools

Our Challenge: While NCLB helped schools to focus on specific student groups, its emphasis was more on punishing than empowering. An effect of the program was that teachers and school leaders lived in fear of not measuring up on a few key tests and of being reprimanded and labeled as failures (or even closed) if students did not score well on tests. If they were identified as "failing," they had no real choices for fixing their plan because the federal government prescribed only one track—"one size fits all."

The Blueprint's New Direction:

More Funds to Reach High Goals. The Blueprint takes a much more positive and empowering position on student achievement. The plan encourages states to adopt rigorous goals for student performance and rewards and provides incentives for accomplishing those goals and for showing progress. What's more, districts interested in reform can compete for additional funding—beyond what they currently receive through regular (formula) programs—to achieve their goals through grant programs, such as Race to the Top, Promise Neighborhoods, and Investing in Innovation. Our plan will maintain funding from regular, core programs such as Title I and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In fact the president's budget includes a historic increase in funding for K-12 education, of which approximately 80 percent will be for these kinds of existing programs.

Fewer Restrictions About How to Get There. In the past, schools not making AYP were required to follow prescribed programs, but the Blueprint strategy is more fluid, offering school systems an array of local choices and control. While maintaining a high bar for accountability, it recognizes that what works in a rural school, for example, may not work in urban areas or other regions.

Making a Bold Case for Reform

Our Challenge: There have been so many reforms proposed over the last few decades that teachers may feel at times like they are just going through the latest motions, checking off the latest "to do" items on an agenda that merely patches problems in education without a clear sense of purpose or direction.

The Blueprint's New Direction:

A World-Class Education. The president's reform agenda calls on teachers to take even more bold and courageous steps to completely transform what we offer students in this country so that all have equal access to a quality education. Others may see the goal of preparing every student for college or career as pie in the sky, but President Obama believes that education is a great equalizer. Skeptics say we must first solve our country's economic problems, but the president knows that we have to educate ourselves into economic security.

What teachers say they like most about the Blueprint is that it asks them to deeply examine their practice and to be willing to improve it to meet the needs of students today. The Blueprint challenges us all to live what we believe—that all students can learn and that they are all worth our investment.

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Last Modified: 09/03/2010