Seattle is a wonderful city, and a well-chosen site for the recently concluded summer conference of the National Staff Development Council (NSDC). The state of Washington has some teacher development and teacher leadership practices that California should emulate. Those of us involved with Accomplished California Teachers (ACT) have taken note, and we call on our state’s policymakers, educational organizations, teachers and unions to learn from Washington’s example.
More specifically, what I’m so impressed with is an alliance of organizations that has produced a unified, collegial, and cohesive approach to address the needs of teachers and schools to improve in their work. One part of this alliance is the Center for Strengthening the Teaching Profession* (CSTP). I’ve written a little bit about CSTP in the past, almost exactly one year ago, in a Teacher Magazine blog post that mentioned Terese Emry. At this conference, Emry has been part of the planning committee and has also seen the work of CSTP affirmed in a new report by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, highlighting the state’s success in ramped up efforts to expand National Board Certification throughout the state. National Board Certification is professional development of the highest order, and the state of Washington has become a case study – literally – in how to craft policy that promotes better teaching. Ten years ago, a state education office tracked its dozens of National Board Certified Teachers (NBCTs) by putting push-pins into a map of the state. Now, as the state has nearly 4,000 such teachers, they’ve had to retire the pins and map. This impressive growth puts Washington among the leading states in National Board Certification efforts. Meanwhile, in California, state-level support for NBCTs has diminished in recent years, leaving a patchwork of highly variable district policies.
CSTP is effective in part due to its relationship with the Office of the Superintendent for Public Instruction, where Michaela Miller has been an effective liaison between state government and teachers. Miller has played a significant role in ensuring support from the state government to advance the teaching profession, particularly through the National Board Certification process and a new teacher evaluation program. I’ve had the privilege of participating in education advocacy training developed and delivered by Miller and Emry, as they have made their training available through conferences and other education networks outside of Washington. Their model has helped many Washington teachers, especially National Board Certified Teachers, to become more effective advocates for educational change.
This coalition promoting better teaching in Washington also includes the state’s NEA affiliate, the Washington Education Association (WEA). While some unions – and their members – have been slow to come around, WEA has staked out a position embracing National Board Certification. WEA has collaborated with these other entities to support teachers who take on the challenge of certification, and further support NBCTs in efforts to speak out. As a result, the state union is an effective partner in the advancement of better teaching and better schools. I heard from one of WEA’s leaders about discussions going on with other NEA state affiliates in the West, and I look forward to seeing the California Teachers Association engaged in similar collaborative, multi-agency efforts to advance the teaching profession in California.
* I would also like to add a special congratulations to CTSP Founder and Executive Director Jeanne Harmon, who was recently honored for her work with CSTP.