Board-Certified Teachers Urge Congress to Use ESEA Reauthorization to Strengthen Teaching

WASHINGTON —  Rachelle Moore, a Board-certified first-grade teacher from Seattle, Wash., urged Congress to take a broad view of what is needed to improve education for all students in reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). In particular, Moore, who was the only teacher to testify before the Senate panel today, stressed the importance of investing in the “continuum that includes teacher induction, professional growth and teacher leadership” as a way to better prepare and retain high-quality educators. [Click to read her testimony.]

“I am hopeful that all parties will work together on ESEA reauthorization to ensure all students have equal educational opportunities,” Moore said in her testimony before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. “I am also hopeful that reauthorization will provide the resources necessary to support and retain teachers, such as investing in residency models and mentoring programs. Ultimately ESEA should invest in the continuum of the education profession that includes teacher induction, professional growth and teacher leadership. Professional learning opportunities are essential to keeping great teachers in the classroom and helping them use data effectively: to identify what their students have mastered, where they need help, and what kinds of help they need.”

She drew on her own experiences of how she grew into an accomplished teacher and now leads the development of new teachers’ teaching. “Both the residency program and Board certification have provided invaluable learning experiences for me as a teacher, helping me grow in my practice as I strive to make the invisible visible to novice teachers. I have opened the doors of my classroom to colleagues and engaged in authentic discussions of teaching and learning. I have become an instructional leader in my school and district, and helped improved student learning beyond my own classroom.”

This was Moore’s second appearance on Capitol Hill in less than a year. Last fall, she spoke at a Congressional briefing by the Coalition for Teaching Quality, about her experience as a mentor in the Seattle Teacher Residency Program, a co-teaching model designed to benefit students and support new teachers as they enter the classroom, similar to residency programs in medicine. She was one of 946 teachers in Washington state who achieved National Board Certification in 2014, the largest number in the nation.

Ronald Thorpe, president and CEO of the National Board, commended Moore on her strong testimony on behalf of the teaching profession. “Rachelle Moore not only epitomizes teacher leadership, she also embodies the importance of continual growth and learning in teaching. Five years into her teaching career, she has supported her more junior colleagues as they enter the profession, an experience that in turn made her a more reflective practitioner and inspired her to pursue her Board certification — an achievement that has further elevated her leadership. If ESEA provided more teachers the opportunity and support to follow Rachelle’s path, students would reap the benefits.”

In a field where teachers are too often treated as the recipients, rather than the agents, of reforms, Board-certified teachers are natural advocates for students and the profession. Through the certification process, they must demonstrate accomplished practice that adheres to the National Board’s Five Core Propositions, similar to medicine’s Hippocratic Oath.

Moore closed out her testimony with a plea to Congress to listen to educators as they consider the future of the landmark legislation: “Teachers are as unique as the students they serve. We adjust our lessons to help our students learn. We see what works and what does not. We develop relationships within our schools, our school districts and our states to help formulate effective teaching and learning practice. We are highly trained and committed professionals, the ones most invested in student success, the ones in direct contact with students — day in and day out. Listen to our voices. Invest in us. Trust and support us.”

Last week, Board-certified social studies teacher Stephen Lazar from New York state testified before the same Senate committee on another aspect of ESEA: testing and accountability. [Click to read his testimony.] He spoke of the need for more sophisticated approaches informed by teachers’ perspectives. “I ask you to keep your ‘eyes on the prize’ of how your choices will affect what takes place in our nation’s classrooms. The fundamental purpose of testing and assessment is to inform and improve teaching and learning, so that every student can be successful in school…. It is time to fix a broken system of testing and accountability. And it is time to do so with the inclusion of teachers’ voices in the process.… I hope a reauthorized ESEA will formalize the inclusion of teachers’ voices across the nation.”

Nationwide, more than 110,000 teachers have achieved National Board Certification through a rigorous, performance-based, peer-review process similar to Board certification in fields such as medicine. Research has shown that the students of National Board Certified Teachers learn more than students in other classrooms, which is why many states and districts offer financial incentives for teachers to pursue certification.