On January 29, during a joint press conference, Stand for Children and Teach Plus released a joint report highlighting ways to improve the state of education in Indiana. In the report titled, “Addressing Indiana’s Quiet Teaching Crisis: A Sensible Blueprint for Progress,” they highlighted three recommendations: increase teacher pay, provide funding for career ladders, and improve teacher preparation programs. The report considered the voices of hundreds of educators in the state and was meant to push forward the conversations about strengthening the education system in Indiana. Stand for Children and Teach Plus believe that by following the proposed three recommendations, Indiana could better support its current and future teachers. This report was a plea to the policy leaders in the state to take action now and improve the outlook for teachers and students across the state.
Stand for Children and Teach Plus are hoping to use knowledge from what happened in Oklahoma where they invested over $400 million in increasing teacher pay. One of the most significant factors in making the teaching profession competitive in Indiana is a meaningful increase in funding for teacher compensation to become comparable with other professions and competitive with surrounding states. According to the report, the starting pay for teachers in some Indiana districts is approaching near the poverty line.
The next point emphasized in the report is to create career ladders for teachers. The study reported that many educators across the state lack career ladders. Some districts across the state have created positions meant to support teachers and principals, but they are missing the point and not developing career advancement opportunities for those who want to remain as teachers. Letting successful teachers move into roles that lack authority and responsibility does not mean they have a career ladder. Many teachers included in the study said their reason for leaving their school is due to the lack of career options as teachers.
The final factor is one that is near and dear to me which is improving teacher preparation. I have always believed that if we improve the way we train and prepare teachers, we can enhance the profession. One of the biggest draws for highly motivated people is the work to that comes with a profession. Being a doctor comes with completing medical school. Being a lawyer comes with completing law school. These are significant accomplishments that make becoming a doctor or a lawyer prestigious. We have to do the same for teaching. Also, we have to ensure our teachers one day one feel supported and are ready to teach. Our students do not have time for a teacher to grow on the job while students in our schools suffer. For the report, I told my story about my first-year teaching and having an opportunity to teach and learn under a veteran teacher for a year. It was not a formal residency program; however, it was just as valuable. Residency programs for teachers could drastically change the way teachers are prepared to lead their own classroom.
I became an effective teacher because I had a mentor who fostered my desire to teach and helped me develop my practice. We must create the opportunity for teachers to be well prepared and receive guidance and opportunities to grow as professionals in districts across the state. As a principal and passionate educator, I take the obligation to grow my teachers as leaders and practitioners in the field seriously. Only by creating leadership opportunities and compensating teachers for the hard work they do will we ensure students in our state continue to have quality instruction from quality teachers.