Over the course of my summer working at CAP, I’ve been exposed to so many issues in education policy that before I never would have even thought to investigate. Education in this country is a perennial issue; it’s a cornerstone of society that is constantly under construction. The education system in this country is in constant flux. It is one of the most responsive societal structures that we have, and it should be a mirror of the progress our country has made. Despite it’s vital function as a basic tool of instruction and preparation for participation in a global economy, there seems to be a consistent lack of appreciation for the people most directly involved in the education system: teachers. There are countless of factors both inside and outside the classroom that can impact a child’s performance and growth. Access to rigorous coursework, socioeconomic status, race, access to health care, and stable housing are just a few of the many circumstances that can impact educational outcomes for students. All of these shape educational outcomes in different ways, but research has shown that the single most important in-school factor in ensuring student success is having high quality teachers in the classroom. I was privileged enough to recognize the many great teachers I had going through the public school system in North Carolina, and I have enough understanding now to see that teachers I considered to be “bad” were really symptoms of the problems of a teacher pipeline system that inadequately invests in teachers. Learning more about attracting great candidates, providing them with exceptional training and continuing to support them throughout their career are the main goals of the #TeachStrong campaign that I worked on this summer. TeachStrong is a coalition of more than 60 diverse education organizations led by the Center for American Progress that are committed to elevating and supporting the teaching profession. Over the course of the summer, the education policy team at CAP has worked on releasing policy proposals that embody the nine core principles of TeachStrong. These policies are about ensuring that excellent and diverse candidates are recruited to be teachers, and they are given the resources and support they need to continue to help students achieve in the classroom. As a student, it was enlightening for me to be able to work on policy that is more geared towards supporting teachers. I think as someone who went through a clearly broken system in public school in North Carolina (which is one of the worst states for teacher compensation!), it is easy to become frustrated with the perceived slow rate of change for working to improve learning outcomes for all students. I think that in order to truly reform and improve our education system, grassroots organizations and big think tanks like CAP need to come together and demand policy change. Incorporating and amplifying student voice is just as important as working to support teachers and developing comprehensive policy changes that can be implemented at both a local and federal level. I’ve always been passionate about ensuring that everyone had equal access to an education system that was adequate and thorough, and this summer working on the #TeachStrong campaign has shown me that fighting for change is a team effort that we should all be a part of. Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, it’s time to recognize the need to invest in our teachers and #TeachStrong.

Erica Jordan

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