How To Engage Teachers in Reforms
The communication channels and infrastructure to reach as many teachers as possible should be established in the early stages.
Building strong feedback loops with teachers upfront is one of the most crucial aspects of building an evaluation program. This allows teachers to contribute to the design and the launch -- creating trust and goodwill -- rather than planning out every detail in advance for more of a top-down model.
Engagement efforts go beyond the overall communications strategy because policymakers are specifically targeting educators to get them involved directly in the effort to build the new system. Engaging educators will also require a budget. Potential costs include paying teachers for work on weekends for attending convenings, mailing surveys to educators, or paying the travel costs for teachers to go to meetings.
Policymakers should begin by taking an internal assessment to determine what is required to build the infrastructure necessary to interact with educators throughout the process. For example, does the state department of education have 100 percent of the e-mail addresses of the teachers in the state? What other channels of communication can reach teachers and allow them to interact and contribute? To reach as many teachers as possible, the communication channels and infrastructure should be established in the early stages of planning.
Whenever possible, teachers should be given the opportunity to contribute in some way to build a new level of trust and partnership between teachers and state officials.
Reforms in states that have emphasized transparency and engagement appear to be progressing more smoothly. Teachers in Delaware, generally, seem to be more at ease about the process than those interviewed in other states. Peter Shulman, the former chief officer of the Delaware Department of Education’s Teacher and Leader Effectiveness Unit, credits the process Delaware has followed for this achievement. “Even though we have had bumps along the road, we have kept everyone at the table, and the reforms are being done in full transparency,” he said.
- Who are the stakeholders that the state should engage from the beginning of the process, such as teachers, administrators, parents and union representatives?
- Do state policymakers have the ability or the infrastructure and channels of communication to engage and effectively interact with stakeholders, especially teachers?
- What type of working groups and task forces will be necessary to design the evaluation program? What will be their goals, and who will serve on them?
- How can stakeholders build the trust early in the process to ensure a collaborative and constructive working relationship?
- How can we maintain channels of communication and feedback loops to encourage continuous improvement of the system?
- Has enough time been allowed for regular and consistent feedback to inform all stakeholders?
- What are the best methods to leverage financial resources to engage the most teachers possible?