November 30 2012

Competition is the Key to Quality Teaching

Vicki E. Alger

A recent essay by  The Best Teachers in the World author John Chubb argues that making the teaching profession competitive—rather than more credentialing—will improve the profession overall. It would also help students.

Quality teachers are the top in-school factor contributing to students’ success. Yet most federal and state certification passing requirements equate to “into SAT reading-math scores of about 1000—well below current expectations for students,” says Chubb.

Most American schools of Education admit virtually all applicants (though not all). Those schools also struggle to show their programs are effective. The U.S. Department of Education has even starting compiling lists of teacher training programs that are at-risk and low-performing—although identifying a whole 38 schools out of 1,400 programs nationwide doesn’t exactly pass the straight-face test. Chubb adds:

Making matters worse for schools of education, sophisticated statistical analyses have been unable to ?nd any bene?t in teacher education for student achievement. Licensed or certi?ed teachers appear to perform no better than teachers without certi?cation or those certi?ed through alternative routes.8 The time required for traditional certi?cation through a bachelor’s or master’s degree in education also deters many bright students from even considering teaching.

Teach for America (TFA) has become the number one employment choice of Ivy League graduates—over one in ten apply—because it provides a route into teaching that requires only ?ve weeks of summer training and no degree in education. Smart young people want to teach; they just don’t want to jump through needless hoops to do so. Research shows that TFA recruits perform at least as well as traditionally certi?ed teachers. Taking all of this into consideration, reformers are asking if teacher licensing is necessary at all. …

For all the talk among political leaders about being ?rst in the world in math and science or otherwise having the best schools and highest achievement in the world, there is little talk about having the best teachers. …

Today’s teachers, however, do not come close to meeting the academic standards being set for students. A pro?cient score on NAEP reading or math translates into at least a 600 on the SAT, or about a 1200 overall. The most generous estimate of the aptitude of new U.S. teachers recently estimated SAT scores of 515 in critical reading (formerly verbal) and 506 in math, or 1021 overall… It may be possible for teachers to educate students to levels above their own accomplishments. But a 200-point gap between teacher performance and student expectations amounts to a world of difference.

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