The 1993 Goals 2000 Teacher Forum: Lessons Learned

by Therese K. Dozier

Reaching the National Education Goals and helping all students strive for high academic standards will take unprecedented partnerships. Key partners in our states and communities have to be classroom teachers. Teachers must help lead the charge. By appointing me as the first resident teacher-advisor at the Education Department, Secretary Riley signaled that teachers will be a significant part of the Clinton Administration's process of educational reform.

But I can't do it alone.

That's why last November the U. S. Department of Education invited a group of 119 exceptional public and private school teachers to Washington to hear their thoughts and to explore ways that the federal government can work with educators to make sure our thinking was in touch with the classroom. I'm pleased to report that this event, the Goals 2000 Teacher Forum, was a great success.

While in Washington, these outstanding teachers demonstrated that they have much to contribute-beyond their work in their individual classrooms-to improving education in this country. The participants had a lot to tell us about how we, as a nation, need to rethink our educational system.

The department wants these and other teachers like them to be agents of change. These teachers agreed that if we are going to help all kids reach high standards, first we are going to have to change the way the education system does business. At the close of the forum, we asked teachers for recommendations on how the system should change. They said:

One of the messages that came through loud and clear was that teachers need more time. Time to become more competent professionals and to become active in school reform. Time to plan effective lessons that actively engage students. Time to assess students in meaningful ways. Time to talk with and listen on a personal level to students, many of whom have no support system outside of school.

In short, teachers need time to be professional educators.

The forum participants also expressed their belief that universities and colleges must play an integral role in ensuring that we have professional, highly competent teachers in our classrooms. However, there was also a strong consensus on the need to overhaul teacher preparation and staff development programs. They said they believe teachers should work collaboratively with higher education faculty to plan curricula and powerful clinical experiences for preservice teachers and to help shape ongoing professional development experiences.

Higher education's commitment to teacher development should nt end with preservice training but should be sustained throughout a teacher's entire career. Because the nature of teaching is changing, teachers are beginning to see themselves as mentors and facilitators, rather than disseminators of facts. And as one teacher observed, "Teaching as a mentor is definitely more difficult and requires vast staff development."

As another teacher stated, "Professional development is a process, not an event."

At the Department of Education, we hope the formal report of what the forum teachers had to say will enable teachers to participate in and contribute to the policy-making process at every level. If we hope to be successful in our efforts, we must honor what teachers know and listen to what they say.

For a copy of the final report from the Goals 2000 Teacher Forum, please call 1-800-USA-LEARN.

Back to Table of Contents of the Summer 1994 Issue of On Common Ground

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