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Why Quality Teaching Matters

The executive director for Teach For America Washington offers his take on the pathway to excellent teaching—and why it's essential for educational equity. 

By Tony Byrd

August 1, 2019

A teacher at her white board

The path to educational equity begins with exceptional teaching in each and every classroom. I appreciate and support wrap-around services, extra-curricular opportunities, programs, summer offerings, and more. However, students spend the vast majority of their in-school time in classrooms and without excellence, the path to equal opportunity is, frankly, unlikely. 

The road to excellent teaching is complex and never-ending. It starts by accepting incredible people into education programs—people who care deeply about students, understand the complex nature of our rapidly changing world, and have a past record of pushing themselves to learn. The programs themselves need to be demanding, supportive and steeped in the most current pedagogical research. They should be integrated with multiple disciplines within a university setting and grounded in opportunities to learn within the community. Educators should have to demonstrate incredible potential to earn a pass into classrooms, particularly into those that serve the most marginalized. Schools need to provide ongoing, job-embedded professional development that is steeped in student needs. It should be differentiated, nimble and responsive to the global, social and economic trends of our nation and the world. Teachers needs to be recognized for growth and effort and should be addressed when they do not demonstrate both. The students deserve that.

“The road to excellent teaching is complex and never-ending.”

Tony Byrd

Executive Director, Teach For America Washington

There are no short-cuts to this greatness. It cannot be found in one tweet, one post, one article, or one friend’s success story on social media. It can be found in an honest, lifelong effort to improve one lesson at a time, one day at a time. Examples of this kind of disciplined effort can be found in the likes of the greatest athletes, musicians, doctors, social workers, and more, as behind each great performance are endless hours of perfect practice. As one national leader said not long ago, “Perhaps the greatest innovation there is, is being truly great at your craft.”