At International Teaching Summit, Education Leaders Talk About What Really Works

At the second annual International Summit on the Teaching Profession, which opened on Wednesday in New York City, education leaders from around the world said collaboration, support, and empowerment are the keys to creating and sustaining a high-quality teaching force. Over the two-day meeting, union leaders, outstanding educators, ministers of education, and administrators from 23 countries will be discussing and sharing strategies that have produced positive results in their countries.

The summit is co-hosted by the U.S. Department of Education, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and Education International (EI). Partner organizations include  the National Education Association, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the American Federation of Teachers, the Asia Society and public television station WNET. Attending this year are representatives from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong SAR, Hungary, Iceland, Indonesia, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the People’s Republic of China, Poland, the Republic of Korea, Singapore, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

“This summit gives us a unique opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences with other countries,” said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel

The theme of this year’s summit is Preparing Teachers and Developing School Leaders and reflects the participants’ desire to focus clearly on specific strategies. This year, they are examining in greater detail three key topics: developing school leaders, preparing teachers for the delivery of 21st century skills, and preparing teachers to work and succeed where they are most needed.

in his opening remarks on Wednesday, EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen stressed that it was crucial for policymakers, administrators and educators to work together to design sustainable, proven policies that can help push out what he called the “wrong drivers of education reform.” This call for partnership and consensus – and an end to the scapegoating of teachers –  emerged throughout the first day’s discussion.

“The beating down of teacher unions has to stop,” Secretary Duncan told the participants. “We need tough-minded collaboration, not tough-minded confrontation.”

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel addresses the 2012 International Summit on the Teaching Profession.

Whether it came from Singapore, Finland, Canada, Sweden, New Zealand and other high-performing or rapidly-improving nations, the message was the same: government and unions must work together if effective reform is to be sustained and embedded in schools.

“When you look at these nations, you see one major common denominator — collaboration,” Van Roekel said.  “Also, teachers in these nations command professional respect and have a voice in education policy. They use their experience and expertise, and they work in concert with administrators and their unions to develop programs and practices to help their students thrive in the global economy.”

At the summit, Van Roekel will discuss NEA’s action plan, unveiled in December 2011, to increase the quality of teacher candidates, make sure that teachers remain at the top of their game throughout their careers, and to improve student learning by helping educators become leaders in their schools.

Prior to the summit, OECD released a background paper outlining the need to improve preparation and professional development for schools leaders and principals while using examples from participating countries to illustrates various practices and policies.

On Wednesday, Andreas Schleicher, OECD’s deputy director for Education, laid the groundwork for the two-day discussion by summarizing some of the key findings of the paper. Schleicher spotlighted efforts in Finland, Singapore, Sweden, Australia Canada, and others that could serve as models around the world. These systems ensure that the profession is attractive to potential recruits and that teachers receive the proper support and mentoring to succeed in the classroom. And school leadership is not the domain of principles and administrators only, but also of teachers.

The 21st century economy, Schleicher said, depends on teachers being “high-level knowledge workers.”

“But the bottom line is that teachers need status, pay and professional autonomy.”

Photos: U.S. Department of Education