Every year for the last 47 years, PDK and Gallup have surveyed Americans about their attitudes toward public schools. The poll is the longest-running survey of the nation’s views on schools in history. The results are always eye-opening, and this year was no exception.
The 2015 survey, based on telephone and internet polling of 60,000 U.S. adults in May, produced some telling results — especially when it comes to the importance of teacher quality.
Consider the questions and results from two inquiries in this year’s survey:
“Suppose families were free to choose which public school their child attends in this community. How important do you think each of the following factors is in choosing a local public school?” Ninety-four percent said the quality of the teaching staff was “very important.”
“There are many ideas about how to improve the quality of schools. How important are the following ideas for improving public schools in your community?” Teacher quality was cited as “very important” by 95 percent of respondents.
What we know for sure at ISTE — and what the poll results support — is that teacher quality is a key factor in any child’s education. That is why 95 percent of parents who participated in the survey said that great teachers are the cornerstone of successful schools. But how do we impact that all-important teacher quality that families crave? And how do we assure that teacher quality matches the needs of today’s digital age learners?
It all comes down to new models of professional learning. Just as classroom approaches to learning and teaching have changed to active learning models, so must professional development for educators. Gone are the days of sit and get. That approach must be replaced with hands-on, relevant, immediately implementable learning. And that learning must include best practices in tech integration if it is to meet the needs of 21st century learners.
As much as we ask students to collaborate in tech-integrated classrooms for increased engagement and deeper thinking, so must we apply that approach to educators in every role — superintendents, administrators, teachers, tech coaches and IT directors, to name a few.
At ISTE, we believe the leading way to advance teacher quality is through team-based professional learning. Blended learning models where all educators learn together provide one of the best ways to build capacity, assure strategic implementation, and meet the strategic goals of schools and districts.
That's why our professional learning services put all stakeholders on the same page to transform learning and teaching. We show educators the possibilities for enhancing learning and meeting pedagogical goals through thoughtful tech integration. We also explain the role of the ISTE Standards and Essential Conditions and engage the entire team in concepts like digital citizenship and distributed leadership.
Our program design and delivery for school leaders is focused on developing visionary leadership to inspire a shared vision, build capacity for professional learning, sustain dynamic educational environments, and become change agents for ed tech advocacy and leadership.
Those who have experienced the contemporary models of professional learning that ISTE provides tell us these approaches are making a difference — not only in teacher quality, but in transforming learning and teaching environments.
Diana Martin, school director for North Union High School in Union County, Ohio, says, “Meeting the demand for students to receive a 21st century education is not always easy, but professional development from ISTE is helping us reach that goal. ISTE was able to provide us with the presenters and resources needed by our teachers to really focus on the student skills required for academic success.”
And William Simpson, formerly the tech coach at Charles Carroll Middle School in New Carrollton, Maryland, and now the technology integration coordinator for Prince George’s County Public Schools in Maryland, told us, “As much as we cross paths within the school, we have never discussed so much about what we do in terms of integrating technology into the classroom as we did today. It was like a blended professional learning community.”
Reviews like that tell us this approach to professional learning has an impact. It empowers educators in every role to innovate, collaborate and dedicate themselves to lifelong learning.
Yolanda Ramos, Ph.D., is ISTE's senior director of professional services.