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Idea of Standards Board Gets Public Airing

Lucinda Young, chief lobbyist at the Washington Education Association, said that the professional standards board in her state is run by "individuals who understand exactly what impact the rules and regulations they create will have on their classrooms, and most importantly, their students."

State officials were all ears when educators explained the potential of a Professional Educator Standards Board to a special legislative committee yesterday at the State Capitol.

Senator Steve Cassano said, “I’ve always assumed educators already had a professional board.  I wonder who else has made that assumption?  I don’t know how we could go so long and not have it.”

There is no official proposal for a board before the legislature at this time.  However, the Legislative Program Review and Investigations (PRI) Committee took a significant first step by holding a public hearing on the idea of a Professional Standards Board for Educators.  Across the U.S., 22 states have either an independent or quasi-independent board.

Testifying at the public hearing, educators told PRI committee members about a little-recognized reality in public education.  It is that educators at all levels know more about learning and academic achievement than any other group of individuals, but they have no formal and structured role in establishing standards for their profession.

CEA Executive Director Mary Loftus Levine said, “When you’re only advisory, people really don’t have to listen to you – and in most cases they don’t.” Representative Mary Mushinsky agreed with the assessment, saying, “What you just said is very accurate around here. Advisory boards — no one listens to them.”

The Associate Commissioner of the State Department of Education, Marion Martinez, told PRI Committee members that the question of governance (of the teaching profession) is one among an array of issues important to explore.  Martinez promised legislators that she would carefully listen to educators’ testimony at the public hearing then confer with Education Commissioner Stephan Pryor.  “We will be following the work of the committee so that promising ideas that are generated through this process can be incorporated into our own reform strategies.”

Senator John Fonfara, co-chair of the PRI Committee, suggested he was struggling to understand why a Professional Standards Board for Educators had never emerged in law before.  “My head is spinning here,” Fonfara said, as he shared with his colleagues how different a new standards board would be from the current arrangement where educators only play an advisory role in setting state policy for their profession.

Talking to the audience at the public hearing, Fonfara said, “You’re talking about empowering teachers to have a rather strong – and actually – definitive voice.”

Dr. Linette Branham, the head of policy for CEA, told legislators, “A new Standards Board for Educators would be all about reform. It’s about restructuring our system to move forward more effectively and efficiently. The processes that have been used in the past – gathering together groups of educators to ask their ‘advice’ about proposed changes, rather than asking educators what needs to be changed – don’t work.”

Links to complete testimony from those who testified are at the end of this story.  The following are key excerpts.

Lucinda Young, Chief Lobbyist, Washington Education Association

Why did the members of the Washington Education Association support and actively work to gain an independent educator standards board?  The vast majority of professional standards boards are made up of practitioners who understand the profession, have full awareness of the demands and knowledge needed to be successful in the field, and can successfully determine, through research.

Teachers were demanding the same regard and responsibility for their profession, as the alternative (advisory role) was not working.  The PESB is now populated with individuals who understand exactly what impact the rules and regulations they create will have on their classrooms, and most importantly, their students.  Teachers graduate from pre-service programs better prepared for today’s classroom.  And most importantly, teachers who move from the residency to the professional certificate in Washington report that the process did improve their teaching abilities.

Jill Mack, Licensure Officer, Saint Joseph College

In 1989, I was appointed by Gov. Madeline Kunin to the newly created VT Standard Board for Professional Educators, a quasi-independent SB. My experiences on the Board, both as a member, and later as a consultant were the highlight of my professional career as an educator. It was exhilarating to know that collectively and collaboratively we were moving the profession forward, as well as taking some of the burden off the State DOE. A deep respect for one another and commitment to the tasks was evident from each board member. I attribute this to the care and time given to the selection of the initial charter members.

CEA Executive Director Mary Loftus Levine

What is CEA’s vision for an Educator Professional Standards Board for Connecticut?  We envision an autonomous board whose members are nominated by specific constituent groups and appointed by the governor.  Membership would be delineated in statute: the Commissioner of Education or his designee as the non-voting chair; five classroom teachers representing the Connecticut Education Association; two classroom teachers representing the American Federation of Teachers – Connecticut; one administrator representing the American Federation of School Administrators; one administrator representing the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents; one representative of the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education; one parent of a public school child/children; one representative from a public institution of higher education; and one representative from a private institution of higher education.   As with other groups created by statute, this selection process assures balance, expertise, and a variety of perspectives, while keeping the group to a workable size.

What responsibilities and authority does CEA see an Educator Professional Standards Board having?  We would suggest this Board would do the following:

  • establish a code of professional ethics;
  • set the highest standards for educator certification;
  • issue certificates to qualified educators;
  • set standards for and accredit educator preparation programs;
  • set standards for educator assessment for prospective teachers;
  • set standards for and oversee TEAM, the educator induction program; and
  • promote National Board certification for educators.

All of these responsibilities interact to create a world-class teaching force.  Practicing educators understand that we can create a system to handle these responsibilities that is flexible and promotes high, appropriate standards.

Cheryl Prevost, Chair, Connecticut Advisory Council for Teacher Professional Standards

I can say with confidence that this lack of decision-making authority takes its toll on teachers who sit on the Council. They often feel as though their opinions aren’t valued when decisions are mad that have an impact on how they do their jobs. This questions many to ask why we even have an advisory council.

CEA President Phil Apruzzese

Am I surprised by TEAM’s success? Not at all. I could have predicted it, because it was designed BY educators, FOR educators, and is implemented by educators with decision-making authority in their districts. TEAM is a shining example of why educators should, and how educators can, have much more decision-making authority in our profession.

Doreen Merrill, Special Education Teacher, Woodbridge Public Schools

An independent educator standards board in Connecticut would use their professional resources to more effectively and efficiently make decisions that affect Connecticut educators.

Shelley Lloyd, Retired Teacher

It’s time to give educators more direct decision-making authority for the profession through an educator standards board. Other professional groups, such as engineers, lawyers, doctors, and architects, have professional representation on their standards boards that govern their professions. There is a recognition that, because they know their field best, they are the best prepared to set and implement standards, and make decisions for their profession. Educators are the professionals with the greatest knowledge of teaching and learning. They have demonstrated their ability and desire to set high standards for themselves. Expanding this work to decision-making through an independent educator standards board, will help reach the ultimate goal of moving student progress forward.

Jim Ewing, Retired Teacher

Teaching is the only profession in this state that does not have a standards board, made up of members from their own ranks, overseeing their profession. Educators can be entrusted to teach our children, so why shouldn’t they be trusted to know what good teaching – and ultimately best practices for educators – should look like.

Click on the names below to read individual’s complete testimony.

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