The first pillar identified by the stakeholders involved in the Vision 20/20 process is that education must provide all Illinois students with access to highly effective educators. To do this, public schools need the resources to recruit and retain effective teachers and to provide high quality, relevant professional development.
Not every person has the skills or abilities to be a teacher. This is true of any profession. Even those individuals who have the talent, and the interest, and the required college degree do not enter the profession as master teachers; they have to continuously learn and improve in their craft. As both the beneficiaries and the patrons of public education, we must acknowledge the importance of making teaching an attractive career option. Then, if we are successful in attracting highly talented individuals, we need to keep them in the profession and help them reach their full potential.
While these goals might seem obvious, consider the stakes. Virtually every child in our state is going to attend school from ages 5 to 18 (longer for those who attend pre-school). During that time, they will receive instruction facilitated by 40 to 50 different teachers. The opportunity to receive a quality education is a promise that we make to every student, a promise that cannot be kept if we are unable to recruit and retain effective teachers to challenge and support them. These teachers need to be experts in their content areas, but that alone is insufficient. They must have the interpersonal skills to develop positive relationships with hundreds of different students, training in instructional strategies known to be effective, creativity and intuitive awareness to recognize teachable moments, passion and a high sense of responsibility for student outcomes. They must have the patience to encourage struggling learners and the wit to challenge those for whom learning is easy, but above all, the resolve to ensure their students meet high standards for proficiency.
If you have any doubt about what it takes to effectively teach a new and challenging skill or concept to 20 students all of whom have different experiences, motivations, interests and aptitudes, visit your local public school, where the skills you learned in college are now being taught in high school, and those you learned in high school – in middle or elementary school. And click on the Vision 20/20 Executive Summary link at http://illinoisvision2020.org/ to learn more about the specific policy recommendations for ensuring all Illinois students have access to highly effective educators.