I was star-struck upon entering the room and seeing our Secretary of Education Arne Duncan (even though I don't always agree with his politics.) At 6'5" he looms large anyway, but he had quite the presence in the room full of dignitaries as others clambered to speak to him. Also members of the US delegation were NEA President Dennis Van Roekel and AFT President Randi Weingarten. Marguerite Izzo, 2007 New York Teacher of the Year, served as the teacher representative, welcoming the other delegations to her state.
Linda Darling-Hammond, Professor of Education at Stanford University, was present as well and wrote about the experience in a eloquent manner that I won't attempt to match. Instead, I'll share the "sound bites" that I wrote down or sent out to the Twittersphere on those two days.
Arne Duncan began by saying that the goal of the summit was to "strengthen and elevate the profession" and that it shouldn't have taken this long to "get to this day."
Here are a few quotes from representative countries:
Brazil - "The dignity of the profession has to do with more than salary."
Canada - "It's important to further explore professional development for teachers and roles that school boards, schools, and teachers play."
"We should stop talking about teachers and instead talk about teaching. We need to talk about the skills of teaching."
China - "We must create an atmosphere of protecting teachers and continue to elevate teachers."
"The movement around the world is education for all. We must be careful it doesn't become test scores for all."
"Teachers must support reforms in order for them to work."
Denmark - "Teacher evaluation doesn't have to be so difficult. Principals should talk to teachers about their teaching."
Estonia - "We must invest in education."
Finland - began by saying, "We're proud of our teachers."
"The climate of the school and school leadership are the most important factors. Also, teachers need time to study, to have formal continuous learning."
"Only one in ten who want to teach actually get to become teachers. All must have master's degrees. 6,000 applicants for 600 jobs."
"There are no national tests in Finland."
"Teachers are considered experts of their work, academic professionals."
Japan - "Teachers are the vital force in education."
Netherlands - "We have secured autonomy of schools. We need to secure autonomy for teachers, but it's important to have accountability."
Norway - "We must respect and listen to teachers. We must raise the status of teachers."
"Curriculum doesn't change what happens in the classroom."
Poland - "We're inspired by these discussions of leadership and teamwork."
Singapore - "It's important to look at principals and how effectively they 'rally their team.'"
"Evaluation should be formative, not summative."
Slovenia - "We need cooperation between unions and ed leaders."
UK - "Evaluation shouldn't be so individual; it's like surveillance. Teachers should observe each other for higher impact."
"The voice of teachers is the heart of public policy."
"We need a system that's aligned and coherent. We need to trust teachers and design improvement WITH teachers."
US (Gene Wilhoit - Executive Director, Council of Chief State School Officers) - "It's inspiring for sixteen sovereign nations to come together to talk about the future of our countries by talking about our children."
"Developing school leaders who in turn develop good teachers is the way to go about it."
"The voice of teachers is the heart of policy."
Arne Duncan - "We've got to get better faster than we have before."
Dennis Van Roekel - "In US we have charter schools in an effort to provide autonomy. Only 17% do better than regular public schools. Most do about the same. Some do worse."
"We need to get the voice of teachers there...their perspective, create their vision. That voice should be in the room."
"There's so much conversation about the profession of teaching. Everyone's an expert because they WENT to school."
Randi Weingarten - "States are heirarchal instead of horizontal."
"Professional development and teacher learning should not be left to chance."
"Those closest to kids - teachers, parents - have the least amount of voice in policy."
"Historically we've had 'drive-by evaluation.' Now we have 'observation by test score.'"
Andreas Schleicher, Special Advisor on Education Policy to the Secretary-General, OECD - "The research shows that teacher evaluation doesn't change anything."
Fred Van Leeuwen, General Secretary, Education International - "Testing is a teacher's tool, not a political device."
Marguerite Izzo, 2007 New York Teacher of the Year - "I've waited a long time to be at this table. I'm proud to represent America's teachers here."
An audience member from the UK - "Teachers aren't afraid of evaluation. They're afraid of being evaluated by people who don't teach, who haven't for a long time, and who don't know what they're doing."
Fernando Reimers, Professor of Education at Harvard - "Many countries mentioned the need for teacher autonomy, teachers being allowed to design curriculum, plan lessons, and make professional decisions. Pushback - in these days of Facebook, Twitter, etc., do we really do anything alone? Is autonomy irrelevant?"
All agreed: We need a systematic approach to education. We need to get the voice of teaching to the table.
On teacher evaluation: We stress a focus on collaboration, but we evaluate individual teachers.
Secretary Duncan ended the summit by saying, "We have to collectively create the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs."
Many of us asked, "What's next? What will come of these discussions?"
I did see the Secretary taking notes, and I sincerely hope that we have learned from countries that respect teachers and hold them in high esteem.
But we all know we have a long way to go...