It's Good to Let Teachers Choose, Too: Because One Size Doesn't Fit All

We often talk about the value of educational choice for students and parents, and rightly so. Less frequently do we strike the theme of the importance of letting teachers choose. As I am fond of doing, a spate of recent stories today presents me with the opportunity to tie this theme together with a big red bow. Without further ado…

1. It’s that time of year again when my Education Policy Center friends shout from the rooftops about the deadline that lets union member teachers choose to get back $39 or more of funds that were spent on union political action. Just don’t go around telling anyone that I have a soft spot for that little cartoon girl who tells Ms. Johnson and other teachers about this option.

2. The Chicago Sun-Times of all places last week ran a terrific letter by a local first-grade teacher that gives an idea why many teachers choose to work at charter schools focused on academic rigor and no excuses. Kudos to Ms. Fergus!

3. A fascinating brand-new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality looks closely at the salary patterns of 113 major school districts (including our own Denver and Jeffco) that may help give an idea why many teachers choose to work in certain places or to stay in the profession. A whole other topic in itself, it is important to remember the power of incentives in how local school systems fashion their compensation systems.

4. Bringing attention to another new report, the Christensen Institute’s Thomas Arnett explains why a number of teachers choose to take hold of blended learning:

By having teachers specialize as either instructional developers, instructional integrators, or instructional guides, school leaders reduce the number of demands placed on individual teachers and allow teachers to focus on roles that align with their preferences and areas of expertise.

5. This rather depressing 13-minute Choice Media interview with a retired New Jersey educator on the seldom reported chaos in the high school where he formerly worked shows how some school systems frustrate high-quality instructors. It also helps explain why some teachers choose not to stick it out.

6. On the other end of the spectrum, the Center for Education Reform highlights a story from Douglas County to point out that a slight uptick in teacher turnover gives every indication that some great teachers choose to be part of something dynamic and different in the most interesting school district in America.

Teachers aren’t a monolith, by any stretch of the imagination. And any system of education that promotes excellence by expanding choice offers a wide variety of benefits to a wide variety of professional educators. Let’s celebrate the options, and not be afraid to fight for more — remembering this kind of value in letting teachers choose.