Protecting the Profession:
Discussing the Complexities of Educator Ethics,
October 6, 2015

People in this video:

Moderator:
Caroline W. Hendrie: Executive Director of the Education Writers Association

Panelists:
Phillip S. Rogers: Executive Director of the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification
Anne Marie Fenton: Program Director of Assessment, Georgia Professional Standards Commission
Joshua Parker: English/Language Arts Teacher and Department Chair, Baltimore County Public Schools, Maryland
Troy Hutchings: Senior Strategic Advisor, ETS

Transcript Body

On-screen: [Protecting the Profession: Discussing the Complexities of Educator Ethics, Tuesday, October 6, 2015, 11:30 am ET]

Caroline W. Hendrie: Well I am so delighted to be here with you on this really important topic of educator ethics. One of the reasons that I was asked to moderate this panel is because I’ve done a lot of work in one particular aspect of ethical issues involving educators. Back in the late 90’s when I was a national reporter for the news outlet “Education Week,” I took a deep dive and looked at the issue of sexual misconduct by educators, a deeply difficult issue for anyone in the profession to have to grapple with.

Then five years later we went back and took another look at, we actually surveyed the states and looked at how state policies had evolved over that five-year period. Of course protecting and preventing educator sexual misconduct is only one kind of ethical issue that we have to deal with. It's important for other reasons, but it also represents a pretty significant slice of the issues of the discipline issues that states have to deal with often that arise. And that work made me very aware of the need for paying greater attention to ethics and education.

One takeaway of that work for me was that when instances of misconduct arise people tend to think of them as just isolated incidents that would never happen, just very much outliers. But if you look at it from a national perspective you see that there are patterns that are actually discernable and that if there were greater awareness of those patterns, they'd be a lot easier to spot. And it's so important that people be aware because these issues when they arise can ruin educators' careers, and they can shatter the lives of students and their families. And they can also lead to multi-million dollar lawsuits and settlements, as you know. So the stakes are really high.

That is why I'm so excited that there's been greater attention given to this issue of ethics for educators. One of the things I found was that educators just don't have much guidance. They don't have much training in ethical decision making so it's so hard for them when they're in the schools to figure things out. So I'm delighted that we have a real expert in all of you really in this topic. And for those of you who don't have a great framing of this issue, we're delighted to have Troy Hutchings. He is a strategic advisor to ETS and he's a subject matter expert on the issue of educator ethics. So Troy?

Troy Hutchings: Thanks Caroline, and you make such an important point that even misconduct as egregious as you just stated, is really, it's not an event, it's a process.

Caroline W. Hendrie: Right.

Troy Hutchings: And so we really have to understand the process as well. And you're also right. As a profession we really need to be honest with ourselves. We may be the only fiduciary profession which historically has not had a code of ethics to guide decision making. We have not provided our practitioners historically with the kind of coursework and professional development and educator ethics, and even at the pre-service or in-service levels, which means that sometimes practitioners aren't even armed with the knowledge of the statutes that even govern their own license. We've not done an adequate job discussing the vulnerabilities and risks that are inherent in working with a population, a vulnerable population of children. But yet we expect teachers to address the personal and social needs of society's greatest asset, children. I think we can do better.

The individuals in this panel, they're going to share how change is occurring at the state and national level, and that's really exciting. And I really feel what's really exciting is we're finally giving our professional permission to have the very difficult conversations about the multitude of ethical dilemmas that educators face.

But I think a question that always arises is that, why has it taken so long? Why has it taken so long to develop a national model code of ethics for educators? I mean think about that. The American Medical Association developed their code of ethics 168 years ago, the American Bar Association 85 years ago. Historically teaching has been viewed as an extension of parenting, and that's an important point. It's a nurturing, caring profession that's developing children. And after all, parents did not receive a code of ethics to raise a child so why would parents or why would teachers need such a code of ethics?

But for those teachers that care, really care holistically for their children, or for the students, there's a vast array of complexities in the profession. Remember, they're being asked to not only tend to the academic needs of a multitude of individuals simultaneously, but in local parentis responsibilities may require educators to tend to the emotional, social, personal, and even physical needs of students not just during the school day, but remember after school on the athletic fields, during field trips, chaperoning school events as well.

So the role of the educator goes beyond just a seven-hour workday where we have direct engagement with students in the confines of the classroom. And also make no mistake about it, the issues and variables that are present in today's society, they intersect directly with the classroom educator. And, again, that's another variable that adds the complexity of our profession.

This profession, unlike other professions, absolutely has no social distance between the practitioner and the person receiving services. In fact, for learning and growth to occur in the classroom or on the soccer fields or in the extracurricular events, educators must deconstruct barriers. And that's really an important thing that we have to embrace and understand. Relationships must be established for learning to occur.

But therein lays a fundamental issue. We have always just assumed that teachers should just know better and they should just know better to, due to some kind of moral predisposition that they probably should have even entering the profession. But unfortunately that kind of a thought that we traditionally have had really marginalizes the profession, it really does. This narrative disregards the situational on complexities that teachers face. It disregards the nuances inherent in the profession. And perhaps most importantly, it frames all actions of a teacher as either good versus evil, or moral versus immoral, and it negates the gray area of the space that's greatly, that's in between all of that.

Remember that teachers, research indicates that teachers make hundreds if not thousands of decisions over the course of a day. And many of those will fit into that gray area. And this whole movement that we're talking about, the code of ethics and professional development in the area of educator ethics is all about giving ourselves permission to discuss the gray and to operate successfully within the gray, and even to embrace the gray. To reply upon that good versus evil dyad as we've traditionally done, well it diminishes the profession's responsibility to prepare educators, to license educators, to provide professional development to educators in this area of ethics and law, conduct and misconduct. And we can really do better than that.

But the irony is very clear, Caroline, and the irony is this. That often the best educators with the most noblest of intentions are actually the most vulnerable to miss steps, and that's something that we've disregarded. And if that doesn't sound like a big deal, consider this. A poor response to an ethical dilemma to an ethical situation, a poor response can actually ruin a teacher's career. It can wreck a reputation. It can divide a school into a civil war, but most importantly, it can hurt a vulnerable population of students. We can do better. We must do better.

Caroline W. Hendrie: The stakes are really high ....

Troy Hutchings: They are.

Caroline W. Hendrie:  And you framed that really well. We're also delighted to have Phil Rogers, the Executive Director of the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification. NASDTEC has been a leader in developing a model code. So, Phil, why don't you tell us a little bit that work.

Phillip S. Rogers: I'd be glad to. And first of all, thanks for being here. Thank you for all of your work that is truly seminal in nature of this whole issue, and thanks for all the panel. And thanks for ETS for sponsoring this great conversation.

NASDTEC has been around since 1928. It is a membership organization that is made up of state offices that manage teacher certification, certification of administrators. Our members include not only the 50 states but the U.S. territories, Department of Defense schools, a couple provinces in Canada. So we are very involved and have a high level of interest in this whole issue of ethics, and here's why. Because the states give the certificates are also those state offices are the ones who must, unfortunately, investigate and prosecute teacher misconduct, educator misconduct, that could result in the loss of a certificate and also the loss of a livelihood. So this is important, it's an important conversation.

NASDTEC is a great place to be the home of the new Model Code of Ethics for Educators. Now just think about this for a moment. The first normal school that trained teachers started almost 200 years ago. The word 'normal' meaning norms, which was to teach standards to those who were going to be in the classroom so that there would be consistent instruction. In those 200 years we've made great progress in many areas but not in the area of educator ethics, unfortunately.

So NASDTEC, our Board of Directors, and our members several, a couple of years ago, decided, had conversations, that led us to a group of outstanding educators that made up a task force to develop the model code of ethics. Now let me emphasize this, this is not something that was put together by bureaucrats sitting someplace isolated. This was made up of practicing teachers, educators, superintendents, principals, paraprofessionals, people who are in the classroom every single day. And the product is an outstanding document that we call the Model Code of Educators, of Ethics, of Ethics for Educators.

Now the important part of this is that we don't intend to just set this on the shelf. Our intention is to put this, make this a living document. So the Executive Board of NASDTEC has formed what is called the National Council on the Advancement of Educator Ethics. We're simply going to sort of morph the taskforce into this national council and they will be charged with the maintenance, the updates, keeping it relevant as a document for educators. Our commitment to this is very strong. We have sought out committed partners from other organizations to help us make this not just a NASDTEC initiative but one that stretches across the entire spectrum of education.

We really have great plans for creating a whole group of research around the model code. We want to expand this into a whole field of study. But we also want to be able to work with our Educator Preparation Programs so that we can begin to help those brand new teachers understand the importance of a solid connection to a code of ethics.

And let me just close with this. Understanding, because many people listening are going to say, "Our state has a code of ethics. Our state has, is called the Code of Ethics." There is a distinct difference between a code of ethics and a code of conduct. And the difference is very simple I think to explain. A code of conduct is like a stoplight on a road. It turns red, you run the red light, someone stops you, they take away your privilege of driving for a moment, give you a ticket, there's an immediate consequence.

A code of ethics on the other hand is more like a sign on the road that says there's an intersection coming up, or there is a sharp curve coming up. Madeline Hunter back in the 1970s wrote one of the first journal articles and it was titled, on this issue, "Teaching is Decision Making." Charlotte Danielson came back later and has built upon this as have others. But the whole notion is that we want to develop a document that will aid our teachers as they are making those many decisions and the importance of each of those decisions.

Caroline W. Hendrie: Thank you Phil. Your colleague, Anne Marie Fenton from Georgia, was also a real leader in putting together the national, the model code. And I understand that you're going to be playing a role in the Council, right that is coming, kind of growing out of that. You're the Director of Assessment for the Georgia Professional Standards Commission. Ann Marie.

Anne Marie Fenton: Thank you. We have a profound opportunity before us, don't we, that the Model Code of Ethics for Educator brings us. Phil, thank you for mentioning state's contribution as well as their providers and partners, because they also have a responsibility and accountability for this work. In Georgia we're committed to not only ensuring we have effective teachers and leaders in our Georgia schools, those as solid preparation and content, pedagogy and dispositional knowledge. We are committed to having a responsibility, to have a responsibility for our teachers and leaders to ensure that they keep children safe. Without effective preparation and tools for professional ethical decision making, teachers and leaders are more susceptible to the slippery slope of poor decision making that Troy referenced earlier.

Many states are working across all of their groups to strengthen the focus on ethics, and that's what we want to see, and state-approved educator preparation program providers, and P12 schools and among their partners. Critical work and the time is now for this work.

To provide some context, in Georgia we've just gone through and are still going through some expansive substantive reform in the past several years. As one of these initiatives, the Georgia Professional Standards Commission adopted rules to establish a system of tiered certification, which was developed by a diverse and representative task force with broad-based input, which is very important in guiding our work as well as just as it was with the development of the Model Code of Ethics for Educators.

In transitioning to this multi-tiered certification system, Georgia, working across its educator and preparation and ethics divisions within the PSC and with their multiple partners, decided to intentionally support, repair, and assess teachers and leaders and not only the state code of ethics, as Phil mentioned, which also is most like a code of conduct, but also and ethical principles to guide the decision making to embrace the gray, if you will, that Troy mentioned earlier.

Georgia does a great job in ethics enforcement just like all other states in our nation and jurisdiction. When we issue a sanction though, as necessary as that sanction is, the damage is already done, and usually to a child. So we need to be very intentional and focused on ethics, education, outreach, and prevention. But most importantly, we need to focus on not just enforcement, because we all do a great job with that, but the time is also to focus on prevention actively.

Toward the same, and this is the exciting part, and you see the word ProEthica behind us, as part of this tiered certification structure we did develop a pre-service certificate so that pre-service candidates come under the code of ethics for educators, which is huge. And we also put in measures so that in order to get their induction certificate, our pre-service teachers, so they can be the teacher of record, those who are traditionally prepared, have that knowledge that I've spoken about.

So we worked with Educational Testing Service, we're very excited about the collaboration, to collaboratively develop the Georgia Code of Ethics Assessment that must be completed as part of in order to enroll in a preparation program, and also in order to get a first certificate to be the teacher of record. Now our nontraditional candidates who service as teachers of record are from the day one are held to the same standard. They must complete a program entry version just as our pre-service teachers do, and also pass the program exit version by the end of their program, those nontraditionally prepared, but also those getting their very first certificate just starting their role as a teacher of record who were in educator preparation programs in our institutions, colleges and institutions, those traditionally prepared, they must also pass it in order to get that certificate.

Very briefly, the Georgia Educator Ethics Assessment is a training program composed of a series of modules that combine instruction and testing. And the reason it's important to know about this assessment is this is a critical tool that's aligned, or will be. Work is being done to make sure that it is aligned with the Model Code of Ethics for Educators, as well as our state's code of ethics, and also ethical principles to guide those decisions.

So ETS put together a diverse and representative group from across the education community in Georgia to make sure that we were getting it right, just as teachers, principals, and superintendents worked together to make sure that the Model Code of Ethics for Educators was also done in a representative way.

The bottom line is this. In thinking, and by the way, we're also doing this for educational leaders. They developed a version in collaboration with us, and again, in a very representative way with partnerships to ensure that our educational leaders understand their critical role in developing school climate and school cultures that foster ethical behavior and embrace ethical decision making, and as Troy said, embrace the gray.

The bottom line to me in this work is that we do have this thing called an opportunity before us and also a responsibility. And that is to make sure that we recognize that through our collaborative and combined focus on ethics instruction and assessment, we, as in Georgia, and also across this nation and beyond, working with all partners can equip all educators, including pre-service, beginning teachers and school leaders in ethical understanding and decision making so as not to violate the boundaries of professional practice. Ultimately ethical violations in education will be reduced and children will be much safer in today's schools. That is what this work is all about and that is what the Model Code of Ethics for Educator can help with.

Caroline W. Hendrie: So thank you so much Anne Marie, and you were so instrumental in the model code. And our next speaker is Josh Parker, who also was involved in this as a teacher, and an outstanding teacher at that, the 2012 State Teacher of the Year in my home state of Maryland, and I'm proud to meet you and very glad; and he said he was an English Language Arts teacher and actually Department Chair in the Baltimore public schools. And I understand that you're making a really exciting move shortly to D.C., my neck of the woods.

Joshua Parker: Yes.

Caroline W. Hendrie: That's great and congratulations to you Josh.

Joshua Parker: Thank you. Thank you so much and to our state panelists, and those joining us on the webinar. I want to focus on some really great points that Anne Marie just spoke to. She spoke to safety, children, and collaboration.

About a week and a half ago I wrote something on a note to one of my high school students. The note read, "After you save this file, you should leave." And so just that in and of itself sounds like that's a harsh note to write, but I was really speaking to protecting her. We'd had a conversation about a bullying incident that she had been going through and the student was in our class unexpectedly. And so through a conversation that I had with her and also with different teachers in the building about that peer interaction, we developed a strategy so that I could give her the permission not leave after she completed her work, to avoid the situation until we worked to get to a really great solution. And that really I think inculcates what ethics is in practice. It's protecting the safety of our students. Not just physically but emotionally. And it's that connection between students and teachers that a code of ethics provides that really gives us the groundwork to work together collaboratively to keep our students safe.

One of the things that was really important to me, as we worked on the code of ethics together on this great team of teachers and practitioners and paraprofessionals and everyone, was that we always kept coming back to the student. We never forgot that the student is what turns everything in this discussion, and we built this set of principles to protect educators to help protect students. And so the student experience and the student voice is so central to this. But, students are supported by teachers.

So how do we as teachers who routinely face, as Troy said earlier, a thousand decisions a day, how do we get on the same playing field so it's not me and my classroom having to deal with all of these dilemmas without the benefit of my colleagues? And I can tell you starting out in teaching my first year was a blur, it still is, because there were so many decisions that I had to make in isolation because I didn't have a code. And I had to learn a lot. I had mentors and I had guidance, but I had to learn a lot by myself. And it's great that things worked out well, but that's just one story. And that experience does not endear myself to my colleagues. And so this code of ethics provides a common language so that we can really get together and collaborate as teachers to protect the wellbeing of our students. And so I come back to that again – safety, children, and collaboration.

I think when this code of ethics is implemented well across the nation in different states and cities and jurisdictions you'll have a different culture of accountability than the one that we're talking about. Right now we're talking about accountability from standards and testing. But accountability is a culture that's best built around all parts of that process. It's built around the protection and the safety and the intellectual capacity of children honoring that. It's about our promise and our trust to the public. And the Code of Ethics protects that so that accountability isn't just about what a student scored, but how a student feels when they're in a classroom. And that I think is a higher level of accountability and a higher standard. And so a lot of the conversation centers around academic and performance. But the child is central to that. And what we build around that child as a profession is really what pushes performance to not just being a test score, but being an experience that they can then come back into later.

I wonder sometimes, coming through school, I went through a great school system, but I had difficulties as a student. I wonder if a code of ethics would have created a climate for me and others that maybe more students can see themselves as teachers later because we've elevated the profession, and we have made the environment so safe and also secure and professional that they can see themselves as aspiring to be a teacher, not settling to be a teacher.

So the goal of the Code of Ethics is to put this profession where it needs to be – right with doctors, right with lawyers, and anything else where there is a fiduciary relationship between the practitioner and the ones receiving service. And that's really the promise of this code of ethics. I believe in it because I've seen the power in this work. And I've also see that when I ascribe to a code of ethics, it helps protect me and brings me into community with teachers in my building.

Caroline W. Hendrie: You know Josh, I really liked that you talked about trust. Back when I was doing my project we called it a trust betrayed. And I think, Troy, you've been really eloquent about this point about when you intentionally pay attention to educator ethics, you are ensuring that the public can have confidence in the education system, and that it can withstand public scrutiny. And to journalists that's really important. Do you feel that the lack of model code of ethics, that sort of shared code of ethical decision making, has that undermined public trust?

Troy Hutchings: Oh, absolutely. I mean how can we, how can we inspire public confidence? How we bear public scrutiny if we don't, as Josh said, have that same standard? If we're not sitting at the same table? Remember right now that the research is very clear that teachers are relying upon personal morality and personal experiences to guide their decision making. Or they're relying upon the implicit norms of a school to guide their decision making. I think we can do a lot better than that. And one of the things that I learned from studying the Codes of Ethics from other professions is that it's often viewed as a convenience, if you will, between the profession and society. Not just the individuals they serve, but to all of society.

And so for medical practitioners it's, you give us the assets of your body and we promise that we'll adhere to this. And for financial fiduciaries, if you give us your money, to trust us with this, please; but now we're talking about children, our greatest asset. And to not have professional development and the regulatory side of things, like laws, and not having an ethical side of things like decision making, I absolutely think that we're sabotaging ourselves.

And in fact, let me just say one more thing with this. When I've studied the literature on what really defines a profession, it's really; I was looking for things like mastery of content, how much money a person makes. It's not any of that. It's actually self-regulation. And that sense of self-regulation is not finger wagging necessarily, it's as Josh said, it's being on the same page, collectively, collaboratively working within a community of professionals to agree on what's best for the entire socio- schooling environment, which is everybody involved.

Caroline W. Hendrie: So that said, this code, the model Code, is not happening in a vacuum right? It's not the first code of ethics that's ever been written. But, you know, Phil, maybe you can tell us kind of what's in it and how is it different from other codes? Like states have done their own code of ethics.

Phillip S. Rodgers: Yeah, and most states do have something.

Caroline W. Hendrie: Yeah. So how is it different from what is out there already?

Phillip S. Rodgers:  Well not only states but professional organizations have, you'll see what they might call a code of ethics. But it really becomes, as you begin reading it, it's obvious it's a code of conduct. It's a 'thou shalt not do this', 'thou shalt not do that'.

Caroline W. Hendrie: The finger wagging that you get.

Phillip S. Rodgers: The finger wagging. And as you read those, even though they may have a code of ethics at the top, you realize it's really a code of conduct. What we tried to develop with the code of ethics was something that would assist those teachers in the classroom. It's not meant to be used to prosecute misconduct. It's meant to help in the decision-making that a teacher, those decisions they make every single day that keeps them from getting on what Troy has coined as the slippery slope – they make one bad decision, it's not so bad, but it leads to a consequence that results in another maybe bad decision. And for the case of most educators, now there are some bad apples out there, there are people in the classroom that should not be in the classroom. But, for the most part, misconduct, having spent 12 years at the Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board where we're prosecuted misconduct cases, for the most part it's obvious that it was just a series of bad decisions and not really having a touchstone that would say – here's your responsibility to the school, to the parent, to the profession, to yourself. Here's the appropriate use of technology. That's the important part of the model code.

Caroline W. Hendrie: So Anne Marie, this has been a big focus of your work in the past year. Why has Georgia chosen to focus its attention on this? Why has it chosen to step out and be a leader?

Anne Marie Fenton: Thank you. Well Georgia's not unlike other states. We have about 125 ethical violations that the Commission must consider each month. And so that sounds like maybe that's not a high number when you think of all the educators in Georgia, but when you think of those are cases that make it up to the Commission, or to the Commission, it does not account for ethical violations that are handled at a local level, it doesn't account for those that go unreported, and more importantly, probably unseen. So Georgia is not unique in the need. What we had though was an opportunity, a passion, a commitment to make this happen. The opportunity was provided by working closely with ETS, who also had a vision of an interactive way to approach this.

Caroline W. Hendrie: With instruction and assessment.

Anne Marie Fenton: Instruction and assessment in an interactive way. By the way, we've had 17,000 to take our assessment in the last, since October. And so to me, or since October of last year, and so what that says to me is that we have 17,000 who are better equipped to make ethical decisions. But, and yet also the tier certification structure, not that states have to have some policy initiative substantive reform to make this happen. But it was a natural play to intentionally consider – is it time to get serious about this?

Caroline W. Hendrie: So you were looking at your licensure standards anyway and that provided the opportunity.

Anne Marie Fenton: Yes, and to put something in place.

Caroline W. Hendrie: Right. So Josh, you were involved in this, in the whole model code. So how has that changed your perspective? Has it changed how you interact with students or your colleagues?

Joshua Parker: It's put a different framework for how I view teaching.  And so we go into teaching a lot of times because we love students, we love the idea of teaching. I'm an English teacher by trade so I love literature. So we go into it for that. And a lot of those are for very personal and emotional reasons. But then we get our training and so we understand the science of it. And then we start, almost every single in-service before the school year begins we have our OSHA and blood borne pathogens training and all that. But you get the legal side of it as well. But going through this process helped me to understanding the ethical importance of what I do. It lifted teaching out of a simply emotional or spiritual or even a regulatory kind of mindset into something that is a profession that has certain standards to it.

Caroline W. Hendrie: And you talked about your first year of teaching being a blur.

Joshua Parker: Yes.

Caroline W. Hendrie: And you just had so many decisions to make. I think that it's not just with the first year but it's certainly very intense in the first year. So, Troy, maybe you can talk a little bit about what kind of support is available now to educators when they're wrestling with ethical decisions. Who do they turn to?

Troy Hutchings: Well that's a very interesting question and it was actually a question that a research colleague and I posed when we did a qualitative study where we went out in seven different states and to talk to teachers — from preK all the way through 12th grade teachers and held focus groups. And one of the things that we learned was that educators by and large without this common reference again, then it becomes a subjective opinion. And so educators by and large felt uncomfortable going to their supervisor, a principal, to ask for assistance with ethical dilemmas.

Caroline W. Hendrie: Maybe they felt like, oh well, he'll think or she'll think I should have known that already.

Troy Hutchings: Oh, absolutely. Well just think about this. If I were to say, I'm struggling with this ethical dilemma, it almost infers that I lack a sense of ethicality. And that inference is a very difficult thing to deal with. And the other piece of this is, remember, well often teachers feel uncomfortable, educators in general feel uncomfortable going to colleagues with ethical dilemmas. There are social consequences to that. We feel uncomfortable talking about how to respond to a love note from a student with a colleague because they might think I might be grooming that student, when in actuality I'm not. But when we have a code of ethics, when we have training and professional development like you're providing at a foundational level Anne Marie, what it does is it really allows for that conversation to occur in a very transparent way.

And when you talk to other professions, whether it's psychologists, medical professionals, anybody else, they feel very comfortable going to each other, to their supervisors, to say, gosh, here's this issue, how do I handle it? And that's really critical. Otherwise just think about the alternative. The alternative is we're making our decisions in the dark, we're making our decisions in a less than transparent manner, and our decisions are being made, quite honestly, on the cuff only thinking about the minute.

Phil was so right. There's a trajectory thinking we need to have with ethical decision making because resolving one ethical dilemma doesn't mean that it's really resolved. What it means is, because every ethical dilemma does not reside in a vacuum. There's a greater consequence to whatever we do, and sometimes the choices between not a right and a wrong, but what is the, I've got two choices or three choices or ten choices and which one is the least damaging. And those kinds of things are, those kinds of discussions are not being had right now, and the research is very clear on that.

Caroline W. Hendrie: Right. And you mentioned so much change in terms of technology, for example.

Troy Hutchings: Right.

Caroline W. Hendrie: So that's really changed the context for educators, the decisions they have to make. Josh, have you seen this play out in schools that have technology is creating kind of new frontiers for educators, new dilemmas?

Joshua Parker: Yeah. Well it has an in many ways, when I was just in high school, it changes the way that you have to communicate with children. It changes, you know a lot of teachers have social media personas, and so students are also on social media. So how do you, you know, do I friend Facebook this person or not? I would say not. In terms of your Twitter persona; so there has to be a set of principles that governs our interaction as space because our role as teachers doesn't cut off when we leave the classroom.

Caroline W. Hendrie: Did you all deal with that at the model code level?
[several responses of yes]

Caroline W. Hendrie: The technology? I did see there was a whole section in the Code.

Phillip S. Rodgers: It's one of the five principles. Correct.

Caroline W. Hendrie: Talk a little bit more about that. I guess at a national level are people kind of coming together and seeing that there are some clear principles in the social media space that need to be abided by? Or do you feel like it's all over the map, it depends on where you are?

Phillip S. Rodgers: Well one of the problems is when a teacher doesn't have a sense of professionalism about their use of social media, exactly what Josh was saying, and how quickly you can find yourself in a problem. Fred Lane, who does a great job in this area, says the problem is not that 97 percent of all high school students have cellphones. The problem is they all have individual phone numbers. So the conversation no longer goes through the parents, it goes from student to teacher. And what can start out as a very normal request regarding an assignment can evolve over a period of time into inappropriate conversations between those, between the teacher and student. And that is a problem.

Anne Marie Fenton: Phil, it really shows the need for prevention, thinking ahead, having teachers and leaders have the conversation about what is acceptable, what's the policy used, so that they are not left to make these decisions on their own – to text or not to text. It's been decided because you talked about it in advance, you've had practice, you've had instruction and reinforcement in advance in the school community.

Caroline W. Hendrie: Are you suggesting that the model code really isn't enough? That you have to kind of take the model code and then do work more at the state and local level, maybe even the school level?

Anne Marie Fenton: Absolutely.

Caroline W. Hendrie: To kind of come together as a community and debate and work out the fine points of kind of ethical guidelines? Is that; what do you think feel?

Joshua Parker: If I could say, that's one of the things that I think is so important about this work is that it's a beginning.

Caroline W. Hendrie: Okay.

Joshua Parker: And not an end of any sort of conversation. But this is the model. And so the model is meant to be used to model whatever yours is after. One of my dreams professionally is to be a school leader as a principal soon. And one of the things that I want to do; the first thing is to establish a code of ethics based on the model for my school. So that starts the conversation. Once we set it, it needs to be maintained, it needs to be monitored and more material because this whole idea of ethics is something that we need continual training on. I know it's something that we're going to look at with the model code adding things to it. [people agreeing while he speaks]

Troy Hutchings: Caroline, it's interesting, an emphasis with the American Psychological Association, Kenneth Pope, who is really instrumental with their code of ethics, said really a code of ethics is meant to guide and inform. It's not meant to, as a prescriptive mechanism. It's not meant to, I have a, to text or not to text. Well that's 5A, I guess I won't text. No, but it's actually meant to reframe the question. It's a starting point. So to guide, to inform, it's not meant to strip away the virtual decision making at all. And so this notion as a starting point, that's critical. So professional development around this is really an important feature of the Model Code of Ethics for Educators.

Anne Marie Fenton: And what a great opportunity to take real-world ethical dilemmas that happen in your buildings and in your state every day and run them through, filter them through, the Model Code of Ethics to see, okay, how does this apply and where can and how do I get guidance from the Model Code of Ethics for Educators?

Caroline W. Hendrie: Right. What kind of feedback have you gotten? In Georgia you were mentioning, it's been a year now right, this month that you've been using this assessment?

Anne Marie Fenton: Absolutely.

Caroline W. Hendrie: And it kind of combines instruction and assessment and its both entrance, right, to teacher prep programs?

Anne Marie Fenton: Right.

Caroline W. Hendrie: And exit. And so it's really interesting. At different levels you probably see some growth. But like what have you heard from the field about all these 17,000 folks who've taken it?

Anne Marie Fenton: Absolutely. And the thing for educational leaders which we're very excited about because that's another feature of the story because a teacher's retention is really based on also the, and much, to a great amount, by their principalship, the leader. ....

Caroline W. Hendrie: Absolutely, the biggest factor, that they have a supportive supervisor.

Anne Marie Fenton: Yeah. So what we've heard from this are comments from both our candidates and their deans, chairs, faculty — hey, I didn't know I didn't know this; I didn't know I needed this. And as far as, was this a waste of my time and money, not one comment that this was not helpful to them. And, again, because it's aligned to our state's code of ethics, but also the ethical principles, and we're very excited about the alignment work ETS will be doing with the Model Code of Ethics for Educators for even a cohesive story of how the Georgia works, the national ProEthica work, and the Model Code of Ethics can fit together seamlessly toward the aim of making sure people have the understanding of the ethics, and ethical understanding to guide their decisions.

Caroline W. Hendrie: Great. Well we have folks watching the webcast and they've been invited to submit questions. So Mihir, do we have any questions from the viewers for the panel?

Mihir: Yeah, we do. And for those online, again, we would love to hear your questions. You can use the Q&A function. Just type your question in, hit send, and that will come to me and I will be able to ask your question. One question here. "Can you expand on how the code addresses social media issues?"

Joshua Parker: I can speak to that briefly. So the code addresses the idea of dual roles. It also deals with a time, location, and also role. And it gives principles as to what should you consider if you have a public persona on social media in terms of interacting with children? So there's a whole section on that. And what kind of implications that contact outside of regular means of contact inside the schoolhouse would have on your job and on your role. We mentioned the Freedom and Information Act as well because a lot of the electronic communications teachers are not aware of are subject to being reviewed. And so we try to put this cloud of guidance around any use of social media so that teachers can have a good kind of understanding of the implications behind when and where they would have that conversation.

Phillip S. Rodgers: And Caroline, I just wanted to say, I'm sure we're going to put it on the screen, but if you want to see the Model Code of Ethics and read it and all the accompanying documents that go with it, you can go to www.nasdtec.net and click on Model Code and there's a variety of documents that go along with it.

Caroline W. Hendrie: And I would just say that the background documents are really excellent too. It's giving the history and the rationale for why it's needed. Troy, do you have anything you want to add about the social media?

Troy Hutchings: Well I just really wanted to emphasize a point that Josh made. And that is that the literature really indicates that when it comes to boundary violations, role, time, and place are really where they reside. And imagine social media and technology and how social media really changes those three definitions completely. And so the Model Code of Ethics I think really frames the right questions around — what is your role as an educator? What time and place provide the predictability and safety for kids and for yourself? And those are the questions that are really asked and really framed so I think that's really critical that you mentioned that Josh.

Caroline W. Hendrie: Well, Mihir, are there other questions from our viewers?

Mihir: Great so next question. What is being done to work with educator prep programs to incorporate this work more effectively?

Caroline W. Hendrie: Anne Marie?

Anne Marie Fenton: May I? What's exciting is, and I'll give a Georgia example, we have our program providers in policy. They are accountable and embrace this accountability to instruct in ethics and to assess ethics. By ethics I mean our Georgia code of ethics, but also ethical principles. And what's exciting about the Model Code of Ethics is we now have ethical principles to which program providers can guide, align their instruction to make sure that their teachers and leaders are equipped for ethical decision making. Very exciting to have this structure support for our program providers in addition to the data that they get back from our candidates on the program entry version and the program exit version of our Georgia educator ethic's assessment. These detailed data also help inform their work, and that's a critical piece of this story.

Phillip S. Rodgers: And I would add that NASDTEC is going to be working with the professional organizations for teacher education as well as the national crediting organization to provide the model code as a way of, and a variety, and working to develop a variety of resources around this that will make teaching ethics in the teacher prep program really a focus.

Caroline W. Hendrie: Just to follow up on that a little bit. Troy, maybe you can speak a little to how prevalent training in ethics currently is in teacher prep programs.

Troy Hutchings: Well, and that's an excellent question.

Caroline W. Hendrie: And I would have loved to take a class in that.

Troy Hutchings:  Right. And the research study that I mentioned earlier, that was another question that we asked people in seven different states, which is a nice, kind of a nice sample if you will. And what we found was very few people have any kind of specific coursework devoted to the regulatory framework or the ethical framework, either one, and that poses a real problem. What I have also found is that sometimes while discussing dispositions, which would be those attributes that we want educators to have – compassion, values diversity, those personal professional attributes, those are sometimes being called ethics when in reality it's not. And those are two different things.

And there really needs to be this equilibrium, if you will, of instruction dealing with dispositions because that's vitally important to the holistic development of children. So we need to have sound dispositions within educators. But there also needs to be knowledge of a regulatory framework and the ethical framework. And right now we have a state that's just not really congruent. We're not offering those three things.

Caroline W. Hendrie: You're not in that equilibrium, right?

Troy Hutchings: We're not in equilibrium right now, that's right.

Caroline W. Hendrie: Well, Mihir, do we have other questions from the viewers?

Mihir: A lot of questions are coming in. We're going to try to get to as many as we can. The next question here. When you speak of a series of bad decisions, could that be seen as grooming behavior? For example, building a trusting relationship with a student with the intent to develop it into an inappropriate relationship?

Caroline W. Hendrie: Troy, would you want to tackle that one?

Troy Hutchings:  Well absolutely. I think there's two different ways to really approach that topic. One is from a regulatory standpoint. A person that does prosecution, investigations, clearly they'll be looking for grooming behavior. But I think there's this notion too that teachers are put in positions, often, to be teacher as counselor, teacher as parent, teacher as rescuer, teacher as savior quite honestly. And those are all roles that educators might not feel comfortable embracing because they don't have the preparation and training in those areas. However, it's very difficult to know what to do with that information. So I can see easily where educators, and I certainly did this as a teacher myself, put myself in a vulnerable position of trying to assist a student when I wasn't prepared, and doing it over time.

Caroline W. Hendrie: Right.

Troy Hutchings: So does that mean that I'm grooming the students? Well it might be viewed that way but see that's where the code of ethics and that's where training really talks about when to defer responsibility to somebody else. It talks about the whole notion of attachment theory and that what I think I'm doing and then what a 15-year-old thinks I'm doing might be two different things. And so it talks about that disconnect and what we can do with it.

Caroline W. Hendrie: Right. And I think when I was talking earlier about patterns, you certainly do see patterns and grooming behavior among a certain subset of teachers who get involved in disciplined cases that particularly people who are kind of serial abusers, that there's a whole pattern. But what you're saying is it can happen for people who are just trying to be caring educators.

Troy Hutchings: Absolutely.

Caroline W. Hendrie: And don't have a proper framework for them. So ....
[cross-talk]

Troy Hutchings: Right.

Joshua Parker: I want to talk just briefly about when we did kind of a study where we gave it up public comment, did a public commentary. [others agree] And one of the comments we got.

Caroline W. Hendrie: With the model code.

Joshua Parker: With the model code of ethics, yes. One of the comments that got the most strident responses, because we had in our original draft the idea of keeping professional distance between students. And almost everyone didn't like that comment.

Caroline W. Hendrie: Right.

Joshua Parker: And so we changed it to boundary, and I think it speaks to what Troy is saying, that teachers are put in this dynamic where we need to be able to have a space to have those kinds of acculturating conversations, but there needs to be an end to it. And the Model Code of Ethics provides a guide for that. And so boundaries really speaks to the dynamism between, I wanted to have relations with my students, but I must make sure they occur within a certain boundary.

Caroline W. Hendrie: That the students are safe and the educators are safe.

Joshua Parker: Correct, absolutely.

Caroline W. Hendrie: Mihir, do we have other questions from the viewers?

Mihir: One more question here. Can you please discuss how the code addressed ethical principles related to school, family interaction, slash, relationships among families of students with disabilities and families of young children, birth to grade five.

Caroline W. Hendrie: Phil, do you want to take that?

Phillip S. Rodgers: Well one of the principles, one of the five principles, is based upon what we call the school community, which includes the parents, which includes the people that are involved in the school and the community that; because it is, the school does not operate in a vacuum, it's part of a community. And so I think if you look at that principle, that particular principle, you will find some very clear guidance on not only relationship with those students, but advocacy for those students. And Josh does a great job of talking about this and now I'll just kind of.

Caroline W. Hendrie: That was one of the things that struck me in the model code. I was a little surprised to see references to advocating for say equitable distribution of resources and equitable opportunities for students. So, Josh, want to talk a little about that?

Joshua Parker: So I had the opportunity to write something in the newspaper about the idea of the code of ethics, and it's the idea that advocating for students with disabilities or that are traditionally underserved is not just a moral decision but it's an ethical one. And it's part of our responsibility as professionals to advocate for every single student, regardless of how they come in to our room, to have equal access to those things. And that's a part of a profession, because professions are judged on outcomes. And out outcomes have to be proportional to who's into our building.

Caroline W. Hendrie: And I wonder if there's something about the profession though that makes it hard, the culture, that makes that makes it hard if you as an educator think that or see behavior that you think is violating that ethical principle of say equal access, equal opportunity, or some other sorts of ethical transgressions, you know, violation of boundaries. Is there something about the profession that makes it hard to sort of speak up and kind of call attention to it?

Anne Marie Fenton: When you examine the school culture and that the opportunity that provides, it really is about what is the culture of the school. Is it one of transparency, is it one of respect, is it one where teachers and others know that it's okay to share what they see?

Anne Marie Fenton: Out of the concern for the children. [cross-talk]

Caroline W. Hendrie: So the school leader plays an important role in sort of setting that tone.

Anne Marie Fenton: Yeah. The school leader and also the professionals in the building, in short, and I like to say it's about being a professional in the profession of education.

Phillip S. Rodgers: And I think, too, remember, prior to this it was based upon personal perceptions. There is now a touchtone called The Model Code of Ethics [others agreeing] that educators could have a conversation about these issues.

Caroline W. Hendrie: I think we have time for maybe one more question. Mihir, do we have a question from the viewers?

Mihir: We do, we have time for just one more, and apologies to those who we did not get to. I just posted our email address. It's proethicainfo@ets.org. So you can forward your questions over to us and then we will definitely answer that for you. And when you log out today, there will be a post survey. It'll only take about 30 seconds. It's not mandatory but we would love to hear from you and get some good feedback from everyone online. So last question here. Could you describe an example or a situation where an ethics standard would provide guidance where a code of conduct would not?

Troy Hutchings:  Sure, I'd be happy to. How much time do we have? [others laughing] Yeah, therein lies the problem. Our feeling in developing the code of ethics is that it should actually be a higher threshold than the law. And so currently much of the discussions and debates we have is when it just doesn't feel right in the gut, but yet the law says it's fine.

Caroline W. Hendrie: Right.

Troy Hutchings:  So let's say a 23-year-old teacher, a 24-year-old teacher, has just finished his second or third year of teaching, runs into one of his former students who just graduated at the coffee shop and they decide to have a conversation, and that results in, "Hey, let's meet tomorrow for another conversation," and pretty soon they're in a dating relationship. Well that's certainly allowed by law. But you see the Code of Ethics then frames some things and it actually has a series of points that says: How does this impact the students that you're going to have next year? And that is a question that we need to ask ourselves: Will I be viewed as someone who's using my classroom as a dating pool? Another question is: How does it deal with your own sense of credibility as a professional within the school? How will parents in the community feel about this particular decision? So there's a real good example. It might be something that's allowed by law, but as a profession we need to take a harder look at our actions and what we're doing.

Caroline W. Hendrie: Right, you can't just rely on the law.

Troy Hutchings:  You can't rely on the law. And we've traditionally been deferring to one of two different mechanisms, which really produces binary logic. It's either personal morality or it's the law. Well remember, as a profession, you've heard it for the last hour, we need to have a higher threshold.

Anne Marie Fenton: Um hmmm. 

Caroline W. Hendrie: Interestingly the code doesn't finger wag. It says, consider the implications.

Troy Hutchings:  That's right.

Caroline W. Hendrie: Of this kind of decision. So it's putting it on the table for further work.

Anne Marie Fenton: Um hmm.

Troy Hutchings:  Right.

Caroline W. Hendrie: So I think that's about it. I think we're out of time, and it's been so great to have this conversation with you.

[Thank you from all.]

Caroline W. Hendrie: Thank you so much and thanks to ETS for hosting this, and thanks to our viewers for joining us and asking such great questions. My understanding is that there will be a recording of this webinar available if there's something you want to over again, ets.org. Thank you very much for joining us today.

On-screen:  [Thank you for Attending "To Learn more about the ProEthica™ Program:
Visit: www.ets.org/proethica Or Email: proethicainfo@ets.org]

 

END OF WEBINAR