Washington, D.C. — Cynthia Brown, Vice President for Education Policy at the Center for American Progress, wrote the following op-ed published in today’s New York Times on improving teaching quality by addressing structural problems in our education system:
Americans are frustrated with the poor academic performance of our students. Study after study details how our students fail to stack up against their peers in other countries. Just this week a report estimated that more than 1 million students dropped out of the class of 2010.
The U.S. needs more rigorous teacher training programs with higher selection criteria.
Many politicians blame teachers or parents for disappointing education outcomes. But blaming these groups misses the structural problems in our education system that produces a teaching force of mixed quality and consequently diminished status. If we want to make teaching a more desirable career option for the best and the brightest, here’s what we need to do:
First, we must improve teacher preparation. Many of the highest performing education systems in the world are very selective about who gets into their teacher training programs. In the U.S., almost anyone can get into and complete a preparation program. Colleges should study the newer alternative training programs like Teach for America and the New Teacher Project, which have designed rigorous selection criteria and produce teachers ready for the classroom.
Second, we must strengthen teacher evaluations. Most evaluations of teacher performance are perfunctory at best. Some states and districts have begun to develop more meaningful evaluation systems but more work needs to be done. The best evaluations measure a teacher’s impact on student learning in a variety of ways so that educators get accurate information on how they’re doing and how they can improve.
Third, we must reform teacher pay and tenure. Unlike other professions, teachers are paid with little regard to their performance or responsibilities. Most are paid based on years of service and graduate school credits, both of which correlate little with students’ academic success. We need career ladders for teachers that allow them to stay in the classroom and extra pay for taking on difficult assignments. Most important, we need to compensate all teachers based on their success with student learning and other related measures.
Finally, we must improve professional development. Teachers, like all of us, learn on the job, but despite billions of dollars in spending each year, research has shown that the quality of professional development is quite poor. Policymakers need to demand more of school and district administrators.
If we fundamentally redesign our teacher workforce system and pay teachers significantly more for their success and responsibilities, our nation can attract many of our most able workers to the teaching profession and raise its status.
To read the full piece, click here.