Duncan Discusses Influence of Teacher Voice on New Flexibility Decision

Today, Secretary Duncan announced that ED is offering states flexibility around high stakes personnel decisions and double testing—a decision greatly influenced by educators’ voices.

His decision addresses two areas. First, states will be able to ask for an extra year beyond current plans for teacher evaluation systems before data from new assessments impacts personnel decisions for educators.

Second, during next school year (2013-2014), some schools will field test new assessments. ED will work with states to avoid double-testing students. Over-testing is a very real concern, and schools participating in the field test will receive the option to administer only one assessment in 2013-2014 to any given student— either the current statewide assessment or the field test.

Dan Brown, a Teaching Ambassador Fellow (TAF), interviewed Secretary Duncan on his decision.

Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

Secretary Duncan’s decision doesn’t come out of the blue. In fact, it was significantly influenced by discussions with teachers around the country. As full-time TAFs, teachers on temporary release from our schools to bring teacher perspective to federal policy-makers, we were literally at the table— and consistently asked to provide educator voice to the high level discussions being held.

In the interest of hearing and elevating teachers’ voices, the 12 members of our TAF team (six full-time Fellows and six part-time Classroom Fellows) traveled to 34 states over the past year and held discussions with well over 4,000 teachers. Teachers, who are the actual implementers for these reforms, are uniquely positioned to offer candid, authentic advice about how to make these urgently needed reforms work best for students.

As Arne describes in the video, we heard from teachers over and over about the unprecedented level of change and reform going on throughout the country as states transition to new standards, new assessments, and new teacher evaluation systems.

Overwhelmingly, we heard support from teachers around the country for raising standards that will ensure students can compete in the global economy. At the same time however, we also heard widespread concern that teachers need time, models, and quality professional development to teach to the new standards effectively. In states where there is a strong commitment to collaboration, teachers feel more empowered, supported, and positive about the current state of reform efforts.

From our vantage point, we believe that the Department and Secretary Duncan are committed to learning from educators. This offer of flexibility reflects the Department’s responsiveness to teachers’ voices. Whether states request the flexibility or not, we hope that we all hear the needs expressed by teachers across the country to make this significant transition sustainably, with room and support for innovation and cycles of professional learning.

Cynthia Apalinski, Jennifer Bado-Aleman, Dan Brown, Kareen Borders, Lisa Clarke, and Marciano Gutierrez are the 2012-2013 Full-Time Teaching Ambassador Fellows at the U.S. Department of Education.


  1. I really hope they also take the voices of the special area teachers such as SPED and ELL teachers in consideration too. We often bear the burden of classroom teachers who often do want to receive professional development for working with these special populations. We are expected to make AYP for these teachers not with these teachers. Overall, these teachers surveyed may want professional development. However, in my experience, they do not attend or are inattentive at best and expect a results rapidly without realizing some times what we learnin PD takes time to implement and see through. Most admin and most researchers and many classroom teachers forget that we exist, yet it is often the students we serve who get the most negative feedback.

  2. What a farce. Clearly teachers are the problem, not poverty, broken homes, violence, defunding of public education, etc. Junk science imposed on educators by non-educators will save the day.

    • Clearly you are not an educator.
      The biggest problem that education faces today is people like you who make decisions and/or comments, but have no idea what
      it is like to be a teacher or the challenges facing our students everyday. Do some research and maybe you will get an education.

    • I’m not sure if you are being sarcastic or not, but as an educator I can tell you that teachers are certainly not the problem. I feel that too many parents and guardians look the the teacher and the education system to play the role of the parent. We are not in the business of raising other’s children but rather educating them.

  3. Homeroom Blog,

    I feel very happy about this blog and the news it brings
    to me today.

    Congratulations to the leadership that is opening up to
    teachers voices. They are the ones in the front line of the effort to educate future citizens. So glad they are being given the respect they deserve.

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