In this season of reflection and celebration, we want to take a minute to put our teachers front and center. We know. You’ve heard it all before.
We think our teachers are among the very best. We cannot say it enough.
This time out, though, we are going to defer to researchers from MIT, Columbia, Michigan, and Berkeley. A recent op-ed piece in the New York Times (“Schools that Work,” 11/6/16) summarized findings from comprehensive studies that measured the impact of Boston-area charter schools recognized as “high expectations, high support” schools. These schools are reported to have a couple of things in common—many of which should sound familiar:
- They invest in teachers. All else in the budget comes in as a distant second.
- They run longer school days, relative to the other schools around them, and in doing so leverage extended contact between teachers and kids (and not always in the traditional classroom).
- They expect students to do well and back that expectation up with sufficient and differentiated instructional support, meeting kids where they are and making a path forward.
- They position teachers themselves as learners who benefit from and respond to feedback offered by peers and administrators who are frequent visitors to the classroom.
The yields from these schools are substantial, say the researchers interviewed for the article. “Relative to other things that social scientists and education policy people have tried to boost performance — class sizes, tracking, new buildings — these schools are producing spectacular gains,” said Joshua Angrist, an MIT professor.
We remain somewhat ambivalent about the way the charter school movement has been leveraged on both sides of the political aisle. Charter schools are not uniformly the answer, says David Leonhardt, the Times’ columnist, who also acknowledges the uneven results produced by charter schools and underscores the risks that a rush to judgment in favor of charters has posed for the broader public education system. Still, we are proud of the mounting body of evidence from schools that share our approach to serving kids: put their interests first by surrounding them with intensely dedicated, expert teachers, and students will flourish. The answer, the evidence would suggest, lies not in the schools, but in the teachers.
So, yes. Our teachers are among the very best.
Not just because they know how to get through the day with children of every age, even when those children are only in the mood to play or to challenge or to disengage as all students (and all humans, for that matter) do from time to time. Not just because they are masters of their craft who nonetheless never stop learning. And certainly not because they have pledged themselves to a profession that inexplicably does not command the salaries of other professions and yet reaches into the very heart of our future and enriches it far beyond our own individual abilities.
We know our teachers are among the very best because they honor and value our children, see them for the promise they offer us all, and invest their time in building the relationships with students that are so critical to helping kids chase their potential.
Please join us in thanking the people who choose every day to invest themselves in our future.
Your children’s teachers: They are among the very best.