John Ewing, a mathematician and president of Math for America, wrote in Forbes about a conference he recently attended about education. He noticed that none of the experts at the conference were teachers. When he asked the conference leader, his question was dismissed.

He remembered that Mike Rose had done a check of articles in the “New Yorker.” Most of the articles about medicine were written by doctors. None of the articles about education were.

Ewing maintains that teachers should make major policy decisions, not politicians. I say, “Hurray for John Ewing!” (By the way, he wrote one of the best takedown of value-added assessment of teachers published anywhere, in 2011, called “Mathematical Intimidation: Driven by the Data.”)

Ewing writes:

Teachers are the ones who drive reform forward, not policy makers. Should teachers weigh in on issues that affect their students? It seems absurd to even ask such a question. Good teachers know their students best. When we ignore this, we make colossal mistakes, like creating bizarre testing regimes or proposing misaligned curricula.

Education suffers when we don’t value teacher expertise, but the worst consequence is something more lasting: The teaching profession becomes less attractive. The best eventually leave, fewer of the best enter, and over time teacher expertise declines, creating a downward spiral.

Yes, I know, not every teacher is an accomplished expert, just as not every doctor is. But many are, and they are the ones we need most. Instead, they leave. Worse, they tell brilliant young people who think about teaching as a career: “You can do better.” A 2019 PDK survey asked teachers whether they would advise their own children to follow in their footsteps; less than half (45 percent) said they would.

The week of May 4 is Teacher Appreciation Week in the United States. This year, instead of giving teachers a plant or a letter or a video (all suggestions from the internet), why not give them something they can use? Give them respect—the kind that recognizes their expertise. Otherwise, we might all soon be asking … “Where are the teachers?”