NCTAF’s New Call for a Collective Effort for Great Teaching

Posted by on February 11, 2015 in Commentary, Featured | 0 comments

At the end of January, NCTAF held its first stakeholders meeting with 34 leading education organizations to discuss the need for a unified effort to support great teaching for all students. It is clear that our country is in an unprecedented time of change for education, as

  • all states implement higher college and career standards;
  • schools and districts realize the importance of supporting teacher leaders and incorporating teacher voice;
  • assessment and accountability systems struggle to find balance and equity for all students;
  • technology solutions for communication, collaboration, and critical thinking are knocking on schools’ doors; and
  • the balance of education decision-making is jostled between federal, state, and local systems.

These factors make a compelling case that the time is now to rise above the negativity, support our educators, and develop consensus around principles and recommendations that move our schools forward. Certainly, a call for great teaching is not new, but to date, we have not seen a unified effort.

As a nonpartisan, independent organization, NCTAF is uniquely positioned to bring together a diverse group of education leaders around the common goal of supporting great teaching that prepares all students for career or college. This first stakeholders meeting was so important to set the tone of collaboration and respect for diverse ideas and to highlight common areas to build upon. This was critical because we have a lot of work ahead of us, such as shared convenings, joint papers, developing a research agenda, and more! (

But our initial starting place was identifying a collective definition of great teaching. Together we acknowledged that the list of elements that make up great teaching is long and can be daunting, and that while great teachers possess many skills in addition to content and pedagogical skills, great teaching is not about one teacher but rather the characteristics that are brought together in an education ecosystem. These characteristics include: collaborative practice, lifelong learning, equitable access to quality teaching, alignment across the K-12 continuum, and promoting innovation by engaging all stakeholders.

During the meeting, participants broke into small groups to focus on five priority conditions needed to support great teaching: equity, teacher recruitment and preparation, professional learning and retention, college and career ready standards, and accountability. Participants acknowledged that we need to talk about all students having equitable access to high quality teaching as the foundation for any discussion about great teaching. Then we need to support teachers in their implementation of college and career ready standards; we need to encourage teacher preparation programs to include meaningful and relevant clinical experiences and highlight effective programs and their practices; we need to develop assessment systems that use multiple and meaningful measures; and we need to continuously cultivate and refine practice and teaching skills through a dynamic process of professional growth and development.

But we’ve heard all this before. What makes this conversation so different?

I believe it was the agreement around collective impact and partnerships. NCTAF is ready to address some of our nation’s most complex educational issues through a positive, collaborative, and action-oriented effort with the stakeholders at this initial meeting and with many more organizations who are ready to join the collective.

We want to build upon the impressive work, research, and leadership that each individual organization has brought to the table by defining and agreeing to common principles, highlighting examples of policies and practices that support great teaching, and promoting the work of collaborating organizations. Collectively, we will develop a report that will serve as a blueprint for education policy makers about the imperative of supporting great teaching and the conditions that must be in place to do so effectively. Our policy recommendations will focus on the “how” and will point to scalable best practices. Then we will use our collective might, staff, constituencies, and partners to make these recommendations a reality.

We are at the beginning of a monumental group effort. We invite more stakeholders to join us in finding common principles and contributing your strength and initiatives. The time is now, the need is clear, and the momentum is building. Join us!

Melinda George, President, oversees NCTAF’s research, policy, and implementation projects, develops and maintains strategic partnerships, and provides thought leadership about teaching for the 21st century. Melinda served as NCTAF’s Vice President and Chief Operating Officer since 2011.

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