Methods To Engage Teachers
Engagement can be as simple as responding to a survey or reviewing a flyer, but there are additional ways that teachers can be “officially” engaged. From the beginning, states should determine continuous engagement strategies and be prepared to measure the effectiveness of their engagement strategy. Options for teacher engagement include:
Statewide Advisory Group
These groups can recommend overall policies for approval by state boards of education or state legislatures. Their membership typically includes classroom teachers, union leadership, principals, SEA staff, and business leaders. Many times, the specifics of the membership for these statewide groups are written in statute. In Tennessee, for example, the Teacher Evaluation Advisory Committee (TEAC) was created by the General Assembly during a specially called legislative session in January 2010 as part of the First to the Top Act. Its members included public school teachers, principals, superintendents, key lawmakers, representatives of the business community, the president and CEO of the Memphis Urban League, the Commissioner of Education and the executive director of the state Board of Education.
Teacher-Voice Advisory Group
Focus groups made up of educators can help improve communications practices and advise on teacher specific issues. As Hope Street Group Teacher Fellows have done in several states, teachers in these groups can serve as “ambassadors” in the field and provide policymakers with insight from their on-the-ground perspective and what they learn from their colleagues.
Regional and/or Local Groups
Superintendents can develop regional teams of educators to gather feedback, build and maintain trust, and build enthusiasm and support. Material developed at either the state or local level can be discussed by and presented to these regional and local teacher teams. The teachers can seek input from their colleagues and share accurate information regarding reform efforts. Feedback generated by these groups can then be provided to the state to ensure that local reaction is considered as they move forward. The teams should have a clear process and timeline for sharing information and should be used as conduits to provide updates to other teachers.
Key to engagement is re-engagement, a conscious effort to repeatedly engage educators in the process. Engagement should never start and end with the first meeting...
Given schedules and distance from centralized meetings, regional committees make sense for teachers. Many teachers from Delaware, Florida, Tennessee and Louisiana said they were unable to contribute as much as they would have liked due to travel time required and cost. Teachers suggest hosting regional meetings and scheduling working groups at times when teachers can easily participate, such as in the afternoons, evenings, or over summer vacation. There are also a number of other incentives to consider to encourage teacher engagement.
Also key to engagement is re-engagement, a conscious effort to repeatedly engage educators in the process. Engagement should never start and end with the first meeting; re-engagement and continued collaboration builds and reinforces trust between and among stakeholders.
Skype, JoinMe and GoToMeeting have all proven to be effective and low-cost tools to re-engage and follow up with educators and, as one Tennessee education official noted, are “almost as effective as being face to face.” Delaware also reconvened a working group with more than 400 educators to tackle the difficult task of creating student assessments that are fair and comparable across all grades and subjects.