Kathy N. Headley
President, International Literacy Association; Professor of Literacy, Clemson University
Teachers make a difference. In fact, research tells us effective teachers are by far the most important factor in student achievement. It stands to reason, then, that the key to improving student outcomes is improving the quality of teachers charged with their education.
With few exceptions, great teachers aren’t born that way. They begin as students themselves. They learn, they practice, they continue their education, they grow in their profession. That is how greatness is achieved.
All children should be guaranteed access to highly prepared, highly qualified educators. It shouldn’t matter where they live. It shouldn’t matter how much money their family does or does not have. Every child deserves a great teacher.
Knowing how significant a difference a single teacher can make, can you imagine the cumulative effect of teacher quality on not only a child’s education but also a child’s life?
Setting the standard
In an ideal world, teacher preparation programs would all adhere to the same set of rigorous, research-based standards. The teachers who come through these programs would be paid well, treated with the same respect automatically afforded to doctors and sports stars, and equipped with the resources and ongoing professional learning that allow them to be the best, most effective educator they can possibly be.
But this is not an ideal world. Not every teacher is given the same opportunities to learn foundational knowledge, quality curricula, evidence-based instructional methods, and successful assessment and evaluation methods. Not every teacher is prepared to design literacy-rich learning environments that meet the needs of all students. Not every teacher is, to be blunt, prepared to teach.
Education is our investment in the future. In addition to equipping classrooms with all types and kinds of books and up-to-date technologies, we must invest in high-quality initial teacher preparation and ongoing professional development.
It is the only way to maintain our most valuable student resource: the teachers to whom we entrust our children’s education.
Kathy N. Headley, President, International Literacy Association; Professor of Literacy, Clemson University, [email protected]