New NEPC Brief: Reversing the Deprofessionalization of Teaching

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In this second in a series of short briefs exploring current education policy issues, William Mathis and Kevin Welner describe the current era of deprofessionalization of teaching

The current era of deprofessionalization of teaching is tied to an easy-entry, easy-exit approach to the hiring and firing of teachers and to the widespread use of standards-based testing to drive accountability. In a new brief released today, Reversing the Deprofessionalization of Teaching, William Mathis and Kevin Welner describe this landscape and offer a path to restoring teaching as a profession.

Three main forces driving teacher deprofessionalizing are addressed in the brief: (a) alternative (fast-track or no-track) teacher preparation and licensure; (b) teacher evaluation approaches that are largely focused on students’ test scores; and (c) scripted, narrow curriculum that can be constricting and demoralizing for high-quality teachers.

Mathis and Welner conclude with five recommendations for policymakers to address the damage currently being done:

1. Teacher education programs should be strengthened, with increased focus on developing the pedagogical content knowledge and expertise that should be demanded of professionals.

2. State education agencies should not recognize or approve teacher education programs or accreditation agencies that fail to provide a full teacher preparation program. Furthermore, they should not license teachers who have not successfully completed such a program and an appropriate field experience.

3. Teacher evaluations should also be strengthened, making use of established approaches that create the supports and incentives to improve teaching and learning, such as peer assistance and review.

4. As test-based policies such as value-added teacher assessment are prone to misclassification and do not validly measure the range of skills necessary for effective teaching, a moratorium should be placed on their use.

5. Scripted, narrow curricula can serve a valuable role for novice teachers and in locations where an articulated curriculum is not available. They do not, however, represent the full range of necessary learning opportunities for all students in all locations. Thus, a broadening, not narrowing, of the curriculum is needed. This can only be accomplished by a partial or complete decoupling of test scores from the high-stakes consequences that compel a narrowed curriculum.

Welner is Director and Mathis is Managing Director of the National Education Policy Center, housed at the University of Colorado Boulder School of Education. This brief is the second in a series of concise publications, Research-Based Options for Education Policymaking, that takes up a number of important policy issues and identifies policies supported by research. Each section focuses on a different issue, and its recommendations to policymakers are based on the latest scholarship.

Find William Mathis and Kevin Welner’s brief on the NEPC website at:
The mission of the National Education Policy Center is to produce and disseminate high-quality, peer-reviewed research to inform education policy discussions. We are guided by the belief that the democratic governance of public education is strengthened when policies are based on sound evidence. For more information on NEPC, please visit:

This policy brief is made possible in part by the support of the Great Lakes Center for Education Research and Practice (GLC). For more information about GLC, visit:

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