Chester Finn writes on teacher policy follies on Gadfly. Among the top mistakes:
Out of deference to adult preferences rather than what’s best for children, we’ve opted for quantity rather than quality, for hiring more teachers instead of demanding (and paying for) better ones. . . Between 1955 and 2000, the number of K-12 teachers in the U.S. almost tripled while enrollments rose by half.
. . . We use paper credentials as the gauge of who will be allowed to teach, rather than demanding evidence of subject-matter knowledge and/or the ability to handle a classroom . . .
We sorely underestimate the importance of attracting intellectual talent into the profession, excusing this failure by saying there’s more to teaching than being smart.
. . . We don’t do any quality control, except via paper credentials at the point of entry, and we make it extremely difficult to move (much less remove) bad teachers or reward good ones. We confer tenure on teachers prematurely and automatically, linking it to time on the job rather than effectiveness. Then we hold it inviolate.