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Topic: Reviving Teaching With 'Professional Capital'
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
Reviving Teaching With 'Professional Capital'
Posted: Jul 1, 2012 6:04 PM
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From Education Week [American Education's Newspaper of Record],
Wednesday, June 6, 2012, Volume 31, Issue 33, pp. 30,36. See

Reviving Teaching With 'Professional Capital'

By Michael Fullan and Andy Hargreaves

The results of the latest MetLife Survey of the American Teacher
confirm what many of us are experiencing and seeing in the depressing
descent of the teaching profession.[See
] In the past two years, the percentage of teachers surveyed who
reported being very satisfied in their jobs has declined sharply,
from 59 percent to 44 percent. The number who indicated they were
thinking of leaving the profession has jumped from 17 percent to 29
percent. Imagine being a student knowing that every other teacher you
encounter is becoming less and less satisfied, and close to one in
three would rather be somewhere else.

Without a strong and relentless focus on what we call "professional
capital," U.S. policymakers will continue to miss lessons from other
countries about how they produce teacher fulfillment and
effectiveness, and to misread warning signs here at home as well. We
have directly studied, worked with, and worked in other successful
countries, and they do not adopt the strategies of rewarding or
punishing individual teachers with measures like test-driven,
performance-based pay, or concentrate their energies on the extremes
of competence with gushing teacher-of-the-year ceremonies or gung-ho
proposals to remove the bottom 5 percent of educators from classrooms.

The truth about the more successful countries, such as Finland,
Singapore, and Canada, is that they develop the whole profession to
the point where students encounter good teachers one after another.
They attract and develop the professional capital of all their
teachers, in all schools, day after day, year after year.

Capital in any form is an asset that has to be invested, accumulated,
and circulated to yield continuous growth and strong returns. In
education, short-term and nonrenewable business capital is organized
to get quick returns on business investment and to increase immediate
returns by lowering that investment. It favors a teaching force that
is young, flexible, temporary, inexpensive to train, lacking in
pensions, and replaceable wherever possible by technology. Finding
and deploying good teachers then becomes about seeking and allocating
existing individual human capital-hunting for talented individuals,
working them hard, and moving on to others when they get restless or
become spent.

National Schools and Staffing Survey data [See
] reveal that the most frequently occurring number of years that
American teachers had been in the job was 15 years in 1987-88,
between one and five years in 2003-04, and just one year in 2007-08.
In other words, there are more teachers in American public schools
today with one year's experience or less than any other group. How
would you feel if that were the measure of experience, of accumulated
human capital, in your local hospital?

By contrast, professional capital involves a long-term investment to
develop human capital (and economic returns) from early childhood to
adult life. For high-quality teachers and teaching, this means
requiring teachers to be highly committed, thoroughly prepared,
continuously developed, properly paid, well networked with each other
to maximize their own improvement, and able to make effective
judgments together using all their capabilities and experience.

Professional capital has three components: human, social, and
decisional. Human capital is about the qualities of individuals.
Strangely, though, you can't accumulate much human capital by
focusing only on the capital of individuals. Human capital must be
complemented by social capital-groups working hard in focused and
committed ways to bring about substantial improvements. Social
capital can raise individual human capital-a good team, school, or
system lifts everyone. But, as we often see in sports, higher
individual human capital-a few brilliant stars-does not necessarily
improve the overall team.

The third component-decisional capital-involves making decisions in
complex situations on innumerable occasions with different problems
and cases. It is what professionalism is all about, especially when
well-qualified professionals do this together. Like judges, after
many years of practice and analyzing that practice and lots of case
examples with others, teachers and other professionals know how to
assess situations effectively. The evidence helps, but it's never
incontrovertible. In teaching as in law, it's the capacity to judge
that makes the difference in the end.

When the vast majority of teachers possess the power of professional
capital, they become smart and talented, committed and collegial,
thoughtful and wise. Their moral purpose is expressed in their
relentless, expert-driven pursuit of serving their students and their
communities and always learning how to do better. Those few
colleagues who persistently fall short of the mark eventually will
not be tolerated by peers who see them as letting down their
profession and students.
"We need to concentrate on moving the entire profession forward
instead of obsessing about the extremes in the field by celebrating
the stars and dismissing the duds."
High-performing countries use professional capital in their approach
to the teaching profession. They don't pick on, praise, or punish a
few individuals. Instead, they get better and better by using a
strategy that develops and retains all of their high-quality teachers
and moves them all forward together.

Based on our experience and research in school change and system
change in relation to teachers, we have written action guidelines for
teachers, school and district leaders, and state and national
leaders, both in governments and unions. Here is a sample of what we

* Social capital is more important than individual human capital
because it generates human capital faster, among all teachers and for
every child. Leaders have immense power with social capital to
strengthen their school communities, develop greater trust, and build
more effective professional collaboration-to raise the social capital
in the school that develops their students' human capital in the

* We need to concentrate on moving the entire profession forward
instead of obsessing about the extremes in the field by celebrating
the stars and dismissing the duds.

* Midcareer (from about eight-years-plus) is where teachers are
considered to be at their peak in commitment and enthusiasm, but
where they tend to be most overlooked. We need to use pay
accelerators (steps up in pay), professional learning incentives, and
multiple career paths to invest in keeping most of our teachers in
classrooms for four to eight years at least and to take better
advantage of their growing decisional capital and expertise.

* Good collegiality-social capital-is supportive and also demanding.
Peer-driven change should be about pulling people into exciting
changes and sometimes also pushing and nudging them beyond what they
perceive as their limits, for their own and their students' benefit.

* There are new and more positive roles for teachers' unions, as
agents of changes that benefit students and their members' hunger for
success with students, not just as opponents of bad reforms.

* Governments need to demonstrate courage and faith in investing in
long-term professional capital among all teachers for everyone's
achievement, rather than pursuing short-term business-capital
interests that reduce the cost and tenure of teachers, pit them
against one another, and replace them with online alternatives in
order to get a quick financial return.

Other countries have invested in the professional capital of their
teachers, and they and their students are reaping the benefits. The
United States, meanwhile, is going down a reverse path. If we don't
change direction, the consequences for our society will be
Michael Fullan is a professor emeritus at the Ontario Institute for
Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. Andy Hargreaves
holds the Thomas More Brennan chair in education at the Lynch School
of Education at Boston College. They are the co-authors of
Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School (Teachers
College Press, 2012).
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244

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