U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, national education leaders, and more than 100 leadership teams from 41 states met in Cincinnati this week for a two-day 2012 Labor-Management Conference, titled Collaborating to Transform the Teaching Profession. The conference was to encourage participants to exchange ideas, share lessons learned, and encourage leaders to take on similar efforts when they return home.

This is the second annual conference sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education, the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, National School Boards Association, American Association of School Administrators, Council of the Great City Schools, Council of Chief State School Officers, and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

The May 2012 conference focused on highlighting innovative approaches to improving student achievement by increasing “dramatically” the stature of the teaching profession.

“The quality of any school relies on the strength of its educators at the front of the classroom,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Across the country, there are remarkable success stories shaping the next generation of teaching. The goal of this year’s conference is to help their colleagues learn from one another and take this work to the next level.”

According to the official conference report, “Transforming the Teaching Profession,” “Now more than ever, to meet the challenges that confront us, we must take bold steps to transform and elevate the teaching profession to ensure that highly skilled and effective educators are at the helm.” (p. 1) The stated goal of participants is that “every student exits high school prepared for postsecondary study, well-informed as a citizen, and ready for the workplace.” (p. 1). One of the defined elements of a “transformed” teaching profession, according to the conference report is attracting teachers of top talent. (p. 2).

Thus far, however, many of the conference sponsors have opposed reforms to make that goal a reality. (See here, here, here, here, and here.) Such reforms include regular teacher evaluations that include student learning gains as a performance measure, raising the bar for tenure, making it easier to dismiss ineffective teachers, and enacting more rigorous entry requirements for teacher training programs.(To see what your state’s doing in terms of teacher quality, see here)

According to the National Council on Teacher Quality, the nationwide average grade for various teacher quality policies is a D+, including failing marks for delivering well prepared teachers, identifying effective teachers, and firing ineffective teachers.

Rather than revoking funding for states that promised to improve teacher quality then reneged—in large part due to local union opposition—ED implemented a new RESPECT project (Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence and Collaborative Teaching). Rank-and-file teachers, in contrast, want real accountability, not more feel-good government programs and conferences.