tACT Core Beliefs
1. Teachers are the bedrock of a free society.
Without a well supported, thriving public education system in place, our state is no better than a third world country - where education is either non-existent or reserved for the elite. In modern times, a well educated populace is essential to maintaining strong families, communities, states and ultimately our nation and world. With greater challenges facing mankind everyday, the future outcome of our entire planet will depend on decisions and contributions from highly educated citizens. Only a strong public education system provides and guarantees that right for all members of society.
Well-documented research studies continue to confirm that no other factor has greater impact on student achievement than the classroom teacher. No other person, idea - or even cutting edge technology, is as vital to educational achievement as the classroom teacher. Anyone reading this now, learned to read and understand other subjects, without the aid of a whiteboard. Not one of us could have learned anything - without teachers. Students spend a greater portion of their waking hours with teachers, even than with their families. No other profession has more profound influence in shaping the future of our state, nation and world. Without teachers, it all falls apart.
2.Teachers deserve respect and recognition- from students, families, school administrators, government leaders and society.
No professional educator should ever attend his or her high school reunion, only to face the comment - "You were so smart. Why did you go into teaching?"
The state of NC has long been recognized for the strength of our teacher certification standards, including licensing policies that actually exceeded the requirements established by the federal education act, formerly known as No Child Left Behind. A majority of educators in our state go on to earn advanced degrees and additional voluntary certifications, and NC has long been a leader in the number of teachers awarded the prestigous distinction of National Board Certification.
Recent actions by our state's leaders show a blatant lack of respect for teachers as well as a desire to further diminish their status - via actions such as the attempt to remove tenure. When our leaders set the tone by showing such clear disregard for teachers, it only further exacerbates the problem, creating an ever deepening chasm of disrespect, from which teachers must extracate themselves.
Education is one of few professions in which those in other fields frequently claim to know better. Graduates with degrees in education have successfully completed courses in cognitive and psycho-social developmental theory, educational methodology, including identification of appropriate techniques for teaching all ability levels, including numerous areas of exceptionalities - that in past generations would have remained unidentified and completely unaddressed. Education coursework is taken in addition to substantial study in the individual content areas. Student teaching internships and field-based experiences in schools begin as early as the sophomore year, with today's teacher education graduates having gained far more experience prior to their first year of teaching than any that have come before them.
With rigorous certification requirements, a job performance assessment that is as challenging, nuanced and specific as in any field of work, along with mounting pressure to acheive top student test scores at all costs - few professions are under more of a microscope, yet given so few of the tools necessary to do the job. Amazingly, with all of this scrutiny and unrealistic pressure, NC's leaders continue to push for greater accountablity for teachers and shcools, while enacting barriers to their success and providing them fewer resources to do their jobs. The same legislature that has proposed grades for schools has also removed class size caps, creating higher student to teacher ratios and inevitable scenarios where teachers, already at capacity, must work even harder to reach all students.
3. Serious improvements in Education will be unattainable until NC leaders - at all levels, demonstrate consideration for the professional knowledge and recommendations of teachers.
Despite the level of training, wisdom and experience of classroom teachers, a number of our state leaders apparently believe it is more prudent to consult with "think tanks" and other assorted highly partisan groups, than with actual NC teachers, who are working daily with students, in the schools of our state - also referred to as "the real world." Pundits everywhere seem emboldened to take pot shots at teachers, who rank among the lowest paid of all professions requiring college degrees - comments they would never level at those in other professions, such as banking, legal or medical fields.
The criticism must cease immediately. In nearly all areas where improvement is needed, problems are a direct result of the combination of lack of appropriate funding, continued failure to follow recommendations of educators in reaching policy decisions and a growing societal attitude of disrespect and disregard for teachers. Despite this reality, some deeply partisan politicians continue to blame teachers and schools for what are, in truth - failures on behalf of the elected leaders themselves.
4. NC teachers must be appropriately compensated and assured job security, in exchange for their willing scarifices for the greater good of our state.
Imagine a law firm operating on a shoe-string budget, with employees using their own funds to purchase office supplies - like copy paper, mostly outdated legal texts for reference and client meetings conducted in over-crowded, understaffed offices. And by the way, despite hiring top law school graduates, the firm only pays a $30,000 per year starting salary, with no hope of a raise in sight. Furthermore, the bosses dictate that staff will only get bonuses if they win every case, even though they must accept every client who enters their offices - guilty or not.
How long would we expect these highly educated attorneys to stick around in such a scenario? For those who did remain - the truly devoted, how long can they be expected to bear all the burden for their firm and remain focused on serving clients, while facing constant criticism in public forums from politicians and others who have never spend a day in their shoes. In fact, even faced with constant requests for volunteers to help out in the schools, these same critics are usually "no shows."
For NC teachers, this is no hypothetical scenario. It is as real as it can get. Yet, unlike most other professionals faced with similar challenges, large numbers of teachers do remain in conditions that other professionals would not tolerate, commonly tapping their own modest paychecks to purchase necessities for their classrooms. Unfortunately, far too many teachers quickly grow overwhelmed by the enormity of the challenges they face or receive offers for work in other arenas, where they experience more appreciation and are able to earn serious living wages. Attrition rates in NC, higher than the national average, are proof that too many educators become overwhelmed and find a way out.
Historically in NC, despite typically lower than average salaries (with the exception of a period of about a decade in which that governor made a pledge to get NC to the national average), our state's teachers could at least depend on keeping their jobs, without fear of pinkslips, so long as they preformed well. As thousands of educators have learned, job security is no longer among the few things teachers can be thankful for.
In the past they've also counted on relatively competitive benefits - among them, good health insurance, provided entirely by the state, as well as the promise of a relatively healthy retirement pension. Even these benefits are no longer assurances, and possibly doomed for the public education chopping block, in heavy use by our current state leadership. Instead of taking reasonable action to rein in healthcare costs, driven skyward, in large part, by the outragous fortunes collected by the insurance and prescription drug industries - including NC's own Blue Cross Blue Shield, which pays out millions a year in executive salaries, our state leaders and some political pundits, instead claim that it is teachers who are greedy. Seriously?
Anyone spending a day, shadowing a teacher, will witness how very little they ask, in comparison to the immeasurable contributions they make. Still, listen to some politicians and you'd think teachers ask for the moon. In sad reality, if given the choice, a high number of them would opt for a smaller class size - in order to reach more students on a deeper level, over a standard payraise. Yet incomprehensibly, against a preponderance of research, our state's leaders have begun paving the way to allow even larger class sizes - in absolute proof that they've either not entered a school building since students themselves, or cannot count. Otherwise, how can they fail to see that there are often more students in some classrooms, than seats and desks available. It could also be surmised that they just don't like children, because it is they who are the biggest losers, in these mega-sized classes.
Only through a highly developed culture of "learning to live without," unique in its creativity and indicative of supreme determination, have NC's teachers and their students achieved so much. No other profession is as capable of accomplishing so much, despite fewer resources to assist them, or proper compensation to motivate and sustain them. Is it wise (much less right) to place the success of a future generation and our state itself, onto the shoulders of teachers, fully expecting an accomplishment of this magnitude, be primarily financed and sustained through their own continued creativity, resourcefulness, generosity and selflessness?
Teaching will continue its downward spiral as an undesirable profession, increasingly less sought after by top college students - even those who may otherwise feel "called" to teach, if working conditions, salaries and benefits do not face immediate and substantial improvement. No doubt, some of the same teachers who have mastered the skill of holding full bladders for hours at a time, in order to maintain the safety and supervision of students, would simply settle for greater recognition and respect for what they do. In reality, they deserve far greater than merely our respect. Respect alone, cannot feed a family or afford an opportunity for the teacher's own children to attend college.
Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin pointed out, during the early sunrise of our nation, what some 21st century politicians have yet to conceive. Simply put, he said that "Education is the investment that pays the biggest dividend."
NC's current governing party claims superiority in understanding what businesses need, but our state's citizens do not need to be trained economists to recognize, that what businesses need most . . . are educated workers. Mr. Franklin was clearly on to something.