01.27.15

Murray On Investing In, Supporting Teachers Through No Child Left Behind Fix: “We Have to Get This Right”

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) delivered remarks at a committee hearing on Fixing No Child Left Behind: Supporting Teachers and School Leaders. In her opening statement, Murray recognized the challengesteachers and school leaders face, and called for supporting them with critical resources and training to advance their skills and help students succeed. Murray called on Republicans and Democrats to work together to support teachers and help provide students with a high quality education in a bipartisan HELP Committeeprocess to fix No Child Left Behind.

At the hearing Murray heard from two witnesses from Washington state: Rachelle Moore, a first grade teacher at Madrona K-8 School in Seattle and Dr. Dan Goldhaber the Director of the Center for Education Data and Research at the University of Washington, Bothell.

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks:

“We also need to recognize it’s not an easy time to be a teacher or a school leader. When they step into a classroom or school, educators confront innumerable challenges: from helping children who are struggling with poverty at home, to teaching students who are just beginning to learn English, to meeting higher standards across the board. 

“Unfortunately, I hear all the time from teachers – three-quarters of whom are women – who feel like they aren’t getting the resources they need and who feel like they don’t have a voice in the decisions that affect their own classrooms.  If teachers and principals don’t get the training, resources, and support they need to advance their skills and help their students succeed, then very little else we do will matter.”

“On evaluations, I believe we should have ways to measure how educators are doing to make sure students have access to high-quality teachers. But I am wary of using them as the sole factor in setting salaries or using testing as the sole indicator in an evaluation.  There’s just so much more that goes into teaching than test scores.”

“I believe we need to invest more in teachers and pay them enough to continue to attract the best and brightest to the profession. And, educators need clear pathways to advance and grow in their careers, in ways that reflect their expertise. We should also consider ways to recruit and retain strong and diverse educators and make sure the most successful teachers are working with the students who need them most. And throughout their career, teachers and school leaders should have access to high-quality professional development, so they can continue to hone their skills in ways that are relevant to their classrooms. That includes residency and mentorship programs.”

“If we want to truly fix the badly broken No Child Left Behind law, this is something we have to get right.  This should not be a partisan issue. Democrats and Republicans should be able to work together on something as important as making sure students have great teachers – and can access high-quality education, no matter where they live, how they learn, or how much money their parents make.  So I hope we can have conversations about a truly bipartisan approach in the HELP Committee to fixing this broken law.”

Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks:

“Thank you, Chairman Alexander.  And thank you to all of our witnesses for joining us today.

“I’m thrilled to have not just one, but two Washington state witnesses on our panel today – Dan Goldhaber and Rachelle Moore. Thank you both for making the trip to DC – or, as I call it, ‘the other Washington.’

“Today, we will address the critical issue of how to best support teachers and school leaders. Each day, our nation’s educators are helping students get ahead and making sure struggling students don’t fall through the cracks.

“As I’ve said, one of the major problems with the nation’s current education bill – No Child Left Behind – is it set unrealistic goals for schools across the country, but then failed to give them the resources they needed to succeed.

“Going forward, we need to provide adequate and effective support for teachers and school leaders, who are so important to a student’s achievement and growth. 

“A 2012 study showed that good teachers don’t just help students progress during a particular school year. When a child has a highly effective teacher, that student will be more likely to attend college and earn higher wages later in life.

“The same is true for school leaders. A study from Stanford University found that in a single school year, a highly effective principal can raise the achievement of a typical student by between two and seven months of learning.

“We also need to recognize it’s not an easy time to be a teacher or a school leader.

“When they step into a classroom or school, educators confront innumerable challenges: from helping children who are struggling with poverty at home, to teaching students who are just beginning to learn English, to meeting higher standards across the board. 

“Unfortunately, I hear all the time from teachers – three-quarters of whom are women – who feel like they aren’t getting the resources they need and who feel like they don’t have a voice in the decisions that affect their own classrooms.

“If teachers and principals don’t get the training, resources, and support they need to advance their skills and help their students succeed, then very little else we do will matter. 

“On evaluations, I believe we should have ways to measure how educators are doing to make sure students have access to high-quality teachers. But I am wary of using them as the sole factor in setting salaries or using testing as the sole indicator in an evaluation.  There’s just so much more that goes into teaching than test scores.

“I know some of our witnesses will be talking about this issue today, and I think this is an important conversation to have. We need to listen to the feedback we’re getting from teachers and school leaders and provide them with the resources they need to carry out the important work they do.

“I believe we need to invest more in teachers and pay them enough to continue to attract the best and brightest to the profession. And, educators need clear pathways to advance and grow in their careers, in ways that reflect their expertise. 

“We should also consider ways to recruit and retain strong and diverse educators and make sure the most successful teachers are working with the students who need them most.

“And throughout their career, teachers and school leaders should have access to high-quality professional development, so they can continue to hone their skills in ways that are relevant to their classrooms. That includes residency and mentorship programs.

“For example, Ms. Moore, I know that your school in Seattle is helping new teachers prepare for the classroom by placing them with more experienced educators for an entire school year.  That way, when new teachers begin their first day in front of the class, they are ready to help their students learn, grow, and thrive.

“I look forward to hearing from the panel on more ways to empower teachers and school leaders with a voice at the table and with the support and resources they need to tackle the many challenges of improving student outcomes.

“If we want to truly fix the badly broken No Child Left Behind law, this is something we have to get right.  This should not be a partisan issue.

“Democrats and Republicans should be able to work together on something as important as making sure students have great teachers – and can access high-quality education, no matter where they live, how they learn, or how much money their parents make. 

“So I hope we can have conversations about a truly bipartisan approach in the HELP Committee to fixing this broken law.

“Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from our panel of witnesses.”

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