There is a movement growing within the greater P-12 and educator preparation educational communities to ensure educators and prospective educators understand how professional decision-making can impact the safety and well-being of children, as well as the culture and mission of the school. This increased focus on examining, understanding, and informing best practice in educator decision-making is a critical part of the mission of the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification (NASDTEC).
Most professions have a strong set of principles to guide decision-making around these principles; in fact all other fiduciary professions have articulated clear guidelines for professional ethics. The education profession, however, has not adopted a model code of conduct to assist educators with making ethical decisions and to assist educator preparation program providers (EPPs) in preparing their candidates to make ethical decisions. The time has come for the education profession to adopt a common set of professional principles that inform state policy and practice with regard to supporting practitioners and preparing candidates in ethical understanding and to guide behaviors and decision making.
Why we need a Framework of Professional Ethical Guidance for Educators
In the United States there are 50 separate measures of what constitutes misconduct by professional, certified educators. Each state or jurisdiction has its own laws and rules, and thus as a nation, we are often challenged by the variances in both the process of discipline when an educator has misbehaved as well as the basic tenets upon which discipline may or may not be issued. In addition, some states use regulatory codes to define the basis for licensure sanction, while other states include ethical principles and/or dispositional standards, and still others combine all aspects. These disparities diminish the ability of the education profession to establish for itself the baseline behaviors that society can and should expect of professional educators and indeed what a practitioner can and should expect of him or herself.
Establishing and supporting a uniform guidance of ethics for educators is a challenging task, yet the need is obvious. The challenge is not the regulatory process itself; each jurisdiction can and should have its unique system of entry and regulation. Rather, we must articulate a clear framework from which standards of conduct for educators are consistently and similarly established, adopted, and enforced, and that professional educators can internalize regardless of where they practice.
This absence of a defined but transferable framework of professional responsibility for educators was a detriment to the profession and needed to be remedied. Peer review is a keystone in professional regulation, but, absent a central licensing body and uniform standards of conduct for all educators, the ability of the profession to effectively and consistently regulate itself is diminished.
Developing the Model Code of Ethics for Educators
A national panel of practicing teachers and administrators was convened to collaboratively and transparently examine research on professional ethics within and external to the field of education, determine commonalities and differences in states’ current codes, identify needs of states, EPPs, and P-12 Local Education Agencies (LEAs), and establish potential outcomes. The committee developed draft guidance, which was vetted across multiple organizational partners and posted for public comment. Following the public comment period the draft MCEE was presented for adoption by the NASDTEC Board of Directors and widely disseminated.
By establishing the MCEE, NASDTEC provides a model of best practice which jurisdictions can adopt or adapt to help ensure states, EPPs, and LEAs are effectively equipping educators in ethical understanding and decision making so as not to violate the boundaries of professional practice. This critical work will lead to a more intentional emphasis, at national, state, and local levels, being placed on ethics and ethical preparation. Ultimately, not only will ethical violations in education be reduced, children will be safer in classrooms.