Friday, November 24, 2017

CCSSO Has Some Thoughts on Teacher Pipeline

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO), the same fine group of state-level ed bosses that brought us all the Common Core State [sic] Standards, have noticed that the teacher pipeline is looking a little busticated, and helpful folks that they are, they are offering six swell ideas about how to get that pipeline buzzing again. What could they be/ And are they as awesome as that CCSsS idea?

Let's take a look.

1) Elevate the Teacher Profession.

Hmm. This seems a bit ironic from the folks who brought us a whole standards system premised on the idea that teachers in this country don't know what the hell they're doing, so someone had better lay out standards for them. Oh, and to write the standards, let's hire a bunch of people who aren't teachers. The Common Core remains Exhibit A in how to use political policy to devalue the teaching profession.

Ah-- but we can cancel the irony alert, because CCSSO isn't actually proposing that we elevate the teaching profession at all:

State chiefs can change this narrative by making it a priority to share positive examples of the teaching profession, including through social media channels and public speaking engagements. In addition, states can conduct marketing and communications campaigns, highlighting how the state is creating new roles for teachers and innovative methods of teaching, such as personalized learning, 
blended learning or career education.

In other words, don't actually elevate the teaching profession-- just start cranking out more effective PR releases.

2) Make Teaching a Financially Appealing Career

Teaching is rewarding and all, but having to take a second job to feed your family is a huge pain. "States and local school districts can take action to alleviate financial pressures on teachers." This is not a bad thought. I'm just wondering-- you guys are all chief school officers in your home states, so I'm wondering how hard you're working on this one with your own legislators.

3) Expand Pathways To Enter Teaching

Dammit, guys-- you forgot Strategy 1 already. Only three strategies are mentioned here-- recruit students and aids, recruit ex-military, and make licenses good across state lines. They don't mention the states where Any Warm Body laws are in effect. But if you treat teaching as a job just anybody can do, that deprofessionalizes and devalues the profession and utimately makes it far less appealing to people who would be good at it. Of course, if your goal is to do for teaching what fast food did for cheffing, then this is all perfect.

4) Bring More Diversity to the Teaching Workforce

Absolutely a valuable goal, though many studies suggest that the retention problem is greater than the recruitment problem. The suggestions here aren't terrible, but they don't seem to include ideas like "talk to actual teachers of color." There are plenty of teachers of color out there talking about the issues, but the education establishment seems to want to focus on any solution other than, "deal with issues of systemic racism within the school system and the teacher pipeline."

Bring more diversity is a great goal, but like "raise all student test scores" or "make my wardrobe better looking," it's meaningless until you start talking details.

5) Set Reasonable Expectations for Retaining Teachers

One in five Americans born between 1980 and 1996—“the Millennial generation”—said in a Gallup survey that they had quit their jobs in the past year to do something else. That rate was three times higher than for other generations. Millennials are also much more likely to say that opportunities to learn, grow and advance on the job are important to them. Given these trends, states are assessing how long they can reasonably expect teachers to stay in the classroom and are rethinking policies to align with the career expectations of today’s workforce.

Or, in shorter terms, give up.

I don't know how accurate this information is-- there are plenty of millennials in my family and this doesn't sound like any of them. Or rather, many of them quit their jobs because their jobs sucked-- low pay, low autonomy, low respect, low support. The picture of millennials as flighty job-hopping wanderers feels, frankly, like an excuse that the older generation tells itself to excuse the shitty condition in which it has left the working world for the younger generation.

The rest of this is just some combination of wishful thinking and lying. Yes, there are lots of folks who are trying to fix it so that McTeachers come and go quickly, leaving before they require raises or pensions-- in other words, turn teaching into the same kind crappy job that millennials are unhappy about in other sectors. But folks who are into the profiteering side of the ed biz would like very much to cut their labor costs, to replace skilled lifelong professionals with churn-and-burn low-skill low-cost workers. Saying, "Well, that's just how those darn millennials want it to be" is disingenuous at best and weaselly at worst.

6) Use Data To Target Strategies Where Shortages Exist

Teacher shortages can be statewide, or more often, they are specific to particular districts, regions, subject areas or grade levels. States must analyze data to determine where the need is most critical, examining subjects and grades taught, expertise with specific student populations such as special education and English learners, and geographic regions.

Seriously? You mean that schools were currently using ouija boards and casting runes?  Or just guessing blindly and assuming that teachers are interchangeable widgets? Okay, now that I type it, that second one does seem possible. So sure-- "use less stupid ways to identify your problem" is good advice on any day.

This whole things is an odd exercise to begin with. It is presented as "advice to the states" but CCSSO is composed of all the top education people in each state, so why exactly is that conversation, which they could have amongst themselves, being expanded to include all the people who aren't chief education officers of states?

It doesn't really matter. As pipeline-fixing advice, this is exceptionally uninspiring. Perhaps we all need to look at how to repair the pipeline advice pipeline.


  1. I think you're absolutely right about why millennials quit their jobs. That's the trouble with data per se. It never tells you the why of anything.

  2. What my mom used to say (she taught for 50 years 1920-1970):
    "We who have done so much for so long with so little can now do the impossible with nothing." I'm pretty sure she 'borrowed' the saying but it still describes the situation well.

  3. This is totally tangential to this thread, but it's an interesting article on reading comprehension that mimics some of what you have written.

    1. This article shines a bright light on the 800 pound gorilla riding the elephant around the ed-reform debate room. Education policies and programs have been built on a web of lies: Knowledge is irrelevant; curricula should be content free; empty skill sets can be transferred; problem solving and higher order thinking can be taught independent of context; students should construct or discover their own knowledge; standardized tests can fairly and accurately measure classroom learning, independent of a lifetime of language and content acquisition.

      Daniel Willingham should be required reading for all teachers. In his book, “Why Don’t Students Like School”, Willingham uses cognitive learning theory and brain science to explain just how misguided much of our policies and pedagogy really is. Cannot recommend this more highly as it will alter your view of teaching and learning forever.

      The Next Generation Science Standards have been written and marketed using many of these same lies.
      The underlying pedagogy of the NGSS, constructivism and discovery learning, have been disproved and debunked decades ago. Requiring children to learn science using the methods by which professional research scientists actually do science, is beyond misguided. The reformers from Achieve have willfully disregarded all we know about learning and the important role of foundational knowledge in order to market their NGSS science kits, textbooks, and one-to-one software. The push into NGSS is fooling a lot of educators and parents who are ignorant of cognitive learning theory.