In gratitude - A final message from Kate Walsh

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At the end of this week, I will be stepping down as NCTQ President. Doing this job has been the privilege of a lifetime, shaping and championing better teacher policies across the nation. A risky job opportunity was presented to me over a casual lunch to come run a nascent organization that didn't have a penny to its name. It turned out to be the perfect fit.

I've struggled a lot in deciding what I want to say here. As anyone who knows me can attest, it is not in my nature to toot my own horn. When I am confronted with criticism, my natural inclination is not just to take it to heart, but to go one better. As I reflect on these years, it is tempting to dissect the missteps around every accomplishment, dwelling on every loss at the expense of celebrating the wins.

However, that certainly isn't how I want to end here. I want to celebrate the many people who have worked at NCTQ and those who continue to do so. As I reflect on the last 20 years, it is these colleagues who are foremost on my mind, not only for the common sense of purpose we have shared, but for the many funny, delightful moments (some in the heat of controversy) that will still bring a smile to my face well into my retirement years. The dedicated and talented staff at NCTQ have not just willingly but enthusiastically embraced one ambitious project after the other. They have dived headfirst into herculean jobs, wrestling long-shielded data away from generally unwilling public institutions and coming up with one creative solution after another to overcome methodological challenges. Emboldened by the most courageous group of funders imaginable, we were not to be denied, and, I'd like to think, the nation has been well served by this shared, determined spirit.

Without discounting the work NCTQ has done with states' teacher policies, much of it forged by my former colleague Sandi Jacobs, I believe our work on teacher preparation will ultimately serve as NCTQ's greatest contribution. With new ratings coming out next month, we will once again show the capacity of the Teacher Prep Review's institutional ratings to succeed where so many other efforts have failed, spurring measurable, systemic improvements not just at a few, but at hundreds of institutions preparing our nation's teachers. With the recent addition of long-buried institutional pass rates on teacher licensing exams, I leave confident that this work will prove truly transformative. And while so many people have contributed to this work, I would be remiss if I did not honor Julie Greenberg's formative role in translating the vision for the Review into reality. So many great minds have come through our doors. I wish I could honor them all.

NCTQ is now stepping into a new era with its first real transition of leadership. I could not have dreamed of a better person for the job than Heather Peske, whose own career has been marked by courage, passion, and laser focus on what's good for kids. Her appointment is the perfect example of the consistent care and feeding of this organization by our Board under the leadership of Tom Lasley (himself a former dean of a school of education with whom I used to spar, until he realized I was actually fairly reasonable). While continuing our legacy work, Heather will also be taking an exceptionally strong NCTQ team into new territory. She will be exploring the viability of a sorely-needed database tracking teacher supply and demand and also expanding our data services to play a more active role at the local level—which is, after all, where most important education decisions get made.

I can think of no other role that would have allowed me to work on issues that could so dramatically alter the trajectory of kids' lives across the country. To my dismay, the nation continues to need reminding that when it comes to improving children's lives, no other educational or social intervention can approach the power wielded by effective teachers, but I also know that NCTQ will be there to remind, prod, and urge us forward.

To the many, many friends and colleagues whose paths I crossed over these years, to those generous friends who made our work possible, and to those who have done the work, thank you.