For Students to Succeed, We Need to Build the Infrastructure for Great Teaching

Editor’s Note: As students went back to school in August 2022, Mandy Clark, President of Impact Florida, co-wrote the following op-ed with F. Chris Curran and Christopher Redding, researchers at the University of Florida, about how the Five Conditions provide the infrastructure for great teaching.

In Florida, students are going back to school with less COVID learning loss than students in many other states.

Proficiency in math and reading have dipped since before the start of the pandemic, but there are signs of recovery: this spring’s Florida Standards Assessment results show math proficiency increased 4 percentage points year-over-year and English Language Arts proficiency held steady. We should celebrate the hard work of teachers and students who maintained learning during the hardest times.

This school year, we should strive to improve achievement through a recommitment to great teaching – instructional practices that result in academic achievement in school and success in life.

Great teaching occurs every day in Florida. But not all teachers have the system-level support they need, resulting in pockets of excellence rather than patterns of consistently great teaching for all students. Parents and policymakers often focus on the variation in quality from school to school, but greater variation exists from classroom to classroom.

How can we ensure great teaching happens for every student, every day?

We need strong teachers, and we need to create the infrastructure that supports great teaching.

Just as roads, water, and electricity facilitate our everyday lives, there are system-level factors that create the foundation for excellent instruction.

Over the past year, education researchers at the University of Florida have explored teaching infrastructure in partnership with Impact Florida, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that believes excellent classroom instruction can move the needle for all students. We have reviewed a broad body of research and talked extensively with education leaders and teachers across the state. As a result, we have identified the Five Conditions that Support Great Teaching as system-level factors that can significantly impact classroom instruction, student engagement, and learning.

The Five Conditions are a shared vision for what great teaching looks like, the selection and implementation of high-quality instructional materials, which should drive countless decisions at the district and school level, effective professional learning that translates vision into practice, empowered school leaders who create a school culture centered around great teaching, and the effective use of data that equips teachers to take action based on the results of progress monitoring and other data sources.

Collectively, these Five Conditions should drive countless decisions at the district and school level, help teachers develop content knowledge and skills in response to their individual needs, establish goals and routines to promote continuous instructional development, provide adjustment to instruction to meet students’ needs, and, ultimately, have a dramatic impact on teacher practice and student learning.

These conditions are not meant to add more work to educators’ already demanding schedules. Instead, just like our physical infrastructure, they are meant to fade into the background. They should work together seamlessly, reinforcing each other. When successful, this infrastructure should be taken for granted, making great instruction easier for teachers to achieve every day.

Over the coming months, Impact Florida will share detailed research briefs developed by experts at the University of Florida that identify best practices within the Five Conditions, helping teachers and education leaders enact them at every level.

As our state explores new ways to recruit teachers to classrooms, it’s even more important that we build the infrastructure for teachers to be successful. The Five Conditions can help align everyone in the education system – parents, teachers, school leaders, system leaders, and policymakers – to ensure that great teaching happens not just in pockets, but for every student, every day.

Mandy Clark is the President of Impact Florida, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that believes great teaching matters. F. Chris Curran is an Associate Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy at the University of Florida, and Christopher Redding is an Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership at the University of Florida.

This opinion piece ran in the Naples Daily News, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Fort Myers News-Press, Marco Eagle, and was distributed via Newsbreak.

Photo: Allison Shelley for EduImages / CC BY-NC 4.0

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