Parent and educator perspectives on issues related to the professionalism of teaching
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The topic of educational reform continues to dominate the public discourse and typically emanates from external influences such as bureaucratic authority from state and federal legislation and the public trust. This study investigates the views of different parent and educator members of two highly educated suburban school communities on the professionalism of public school teaching. By identifying itself as an accepted profession based on a set of clearly articulated attributes (Cruess et al., 2003), teaching would benefit from the associated trust, respect, and admiration of society for its contributions to society. Possessing a well-defined, complex knowledge base, functioning with a high degree of autonomy and committing to self-regulated accountability, and adhering to a publicly communicated code of ethics define professions such as law and medicine. Accomplishing this would situate teachers and public education in a position to significantly influence and direct the discourse regarding the serious issues and challenges facing the educational system today. This study investigates the perspectives from these different groups of teachers, administrators, and parents to analyze the commonalities and differences related to the acquisition and complexity of the knowledge base and skill set of teaching, the occupation's organizational structure with respect to self-regulation, autonomy, and accountability, and its ethical commitment to the community that it serves, and to explain why varying perspectives may exist. The findings suggest that the participants from the different groups did not possess a common framework on how to define professionalism related to public school teaching. Without this common understanding it is difficult to identify specific issues that need to be discussed and addressed to further the concept of educational reform in an effective and meaningful way, based on the belief that teaching needs to function as an accepted profession. An important attribute of professionalism appears to be lacking in the field of public education, specifically self-regulation coupled with accountability. The focus of the majority of education reform initiatives currently are being directed by external bureaucratic and political forces by those who are not educators. These external influences and the policies that they produce appear to ignore the direct experience of public educators, and in so doing diminish their contributions. This scenario may contribute to the perception that teaching has not achieved the status of a profession. The results of this research study present implications related to the caliber of the role of teachers in regulating and furthering the development of the field of education, the articulation and commitment to specific codes of ethics to guide the occupation's practice and beliefs, and the development and adoption of a defined complex body of knowledge. The majority of these topics have not been previously considered by most of this study's participants with respect to public school education and more importantly have not influenced how to inform effective educational reform.