Teachers Need A Louder Voice In Setting Education Policies

The Common Core – a set of K-12 national education standards – were conceived of by governors, designed by consultants, and have the support of teachers across the country. Yet Republicans are standing in the way in states like Michigan and Indiana. Michigan’s State Senate passed a budget measure preventing the Michigan Department of Education from spending any money on implementing the Common Core. Similarly, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed a bill postponing Common Core implementation.

Many Republicans are mistakenly claiming the Common Core represents a federal takeover of education even though 75% of teachers support the Common Core. In fact, this kind of support for education policies is common among the country’s teachers. A report released today by the Center for American Progress documents the prominent teacher voice organizations –- like VIVA Teachers, Teach Plus, and Educators for Excellence –- and analyzes the wide-array of policies that influence work in the classroom around issues like the Common Core.

The report finds that teacher voice organizations have diverse memberships, operate under the premise that teacher voice is not monolithic, and are working to professionalize the teaching profession. These grassroots organizations began forming at a time when teachers decided they were no longer satisfied with the status quo and began expressing great interest in embracing new leadership opportunities.

Teachers are often depicted as standing in the way of change in the classroom. Yet the increase in organizations that involve teachers directly in policy paints a different picture. Teacher voice groups opened up a new outlet for teachers to express their views on pertinent education policy issues like the Common Core and many teachers are taking advantage of these groups. In fact, almost 2,700 Teach Plus teachers have attended events on the Common Core and another 400 attended webinars on the same topic.

While Tea Partiers are rallying together against the Common Core, it’s important to note that the politicians aren’t the ones whose work will be most affected by them. Maybe we should ask the teachers themselves about whether the standards matter and will improve education for all students. In a Center for American Progress video highlighting teachers’ views on education policy released today, Amelia Herbert of VIVA Teachers says, “I am really interested and concerned with the Common Core and its implementation because I believe that it can really level the playing field for students despite what neighborhood they are coming from.”

It’s time to start listening to teachers’ voices on the Common Core and other important education policy issues that directly impact their work.


Chelsea Straus is the Special Assistant for the Pre-K-12 Education Policy team at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.