Jenny's carnival

Jenny D is hosting the Carnival of Education, which features Moebius Stripper on what high school students should learn about math before they show up in her college classroom and Math and Text on the fatal phrase, “My kids won’t get this.”

In addition, Education Policyist analyzes the evidence on a claim by Martin Gross in a Washington Times editorial that, “Our educators, from teachers through superintendents of schools, are academically and intellectually so inferior that the fourth grade is apparently the outer limit of their teaching abilities.” Gross cites below-average SAT scores of high school seniors who say they want to be teachers, though the weakest students aren’t likely to finish college.

Those who pass the PRAXIS teacher test required of high school teachers “score above the average for college-bound high schoolers (although admittedly below the average for all college graduates),” writes EP.

Gross goes on to say that “the GRE, the Graduate Record Exam, taken by those seeking a master’s in eight professions, teachers score the lowest, with engineers at the top. The engineers even beat the teachers in the verbal test by 29 points.”

EP points out that “high school teachers outscore those going into psychology, sociology, business administration and management, communications, public administration, social work, and even health and medical sciences.”

An analysis of data from the National Adult Literacy Survey found that teachers score much higher than all adults and slightly higher than college educated adults in prose and document literacy, and tying with other college-educated adults at quantitative literacy. Teachers scored at the same level as lawyers (in two categories), engineers (in one category), accountants and auditors (in two categories), marketing/pr professionals, financial managers, counselors, and physicians.

Elementary teachers, who are likely to major in education, tend to have lower SAT scores than high school teachers.

Update: I think Education Policyist is wrong about GRE scores (pdf). Would-be educators who take the GREs score lower than GRE takers in all the broad categories (humanities and arts, engineering, business, life sciences, physical sciences and social sciences), outscoring only master’s candidates in home economics, social work and public administration, who are grouped under “other fields.” This Education News column points out that would-be school administrators have particularly dismal GRE scores.

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Comments

  1. Walter E. Wallis says:

    When engineery stuff doesn’t work we have to pay to fix it. Teachers should try that.

  2. ragnarok says:

    Education Policyist said:

    “Gross goes on to say that “the GRE, the Graduate Record Exam, taken by those seeking a master’s in eight professions, teachers score the lowest, with engineers at the top. The engineers even beat the teachers in the verbal test by 29 points. ” It’s not clear what he [Gross] means by eight professions, since the GRE is taken by people in many more than eight professions. If only eight outscore teachers, that’s quite an achievement for the teachers.”

    Almost everyone knows that the GRE has a General Test, as well as Advanced Tests in eight subjects. What Mr. Gross claims, I believe, is that if the people who take the General Test are broken out by profession, teachers come in dead last. For concreteness, let’s assume that the test-takers were classified into 55 professions; then teachers, he claims, come in 55th, dead last.

    Assuming that Mr. Gross’s figures are correct, this is a pretty shabby performance. Hard to square this with Education Policyist’s assertion that “If only eight outscore teachers, that’s quite an achievement for the teachers.” Based on the above assumptions, it would be more accurate to say, “If everyone outscores the teachers, that’s quite an achievement for the teachers”.

    Not encouraging that Education Policyist makes such heavy weather of this rather straightforward claim.

    I’m a bit troubled that he goes on to say, in the same paragraph, that “…A quick check of scores show that high school teachers outscore those going into psychology,…”. What scores? What test?

    If Mr. Gross is correct, EP must be referring to a different test. If so, shouldn’t he have called it out?

  3. Mike in Texas says:

    Wow, the complete anti-teacher/anti-public education program all wrapped up into one. I’m glad I read it; I didn’t realize the real movers and shakers of the world are the liberal arts majors.(sarcasm). I also didn’t realize what horrible villians the PTA and the average citizens are.

  4. Independent George says:

    I’m not sure this means as much as we think it does. All the GRE scores are showing is the ranking. Since somebody has to be at the lower end, and since GRE takers are already self-selecting for college graduates, this really doesn’t actually tell us that much. By definition, it is impossible for everybody to be above average.

  5. I took the GRE at the same time as a bunch of friends I graduated with. We all thought it was simple. It was probably easier than every other test I took in college. Well maybe not easier than the 100 level classes. The GRE was much easier than the FE. I think it is very sad that teachers are at the bottom, but I think it has more to do with curriculum in college than the intelligence of the teachers. Look at the requirements for teachers at your local college. They have to have a basic knowledge of every subject, but the focus is on learning to teach children these subjects. As an engineer I have always had trouble explaining math to people that think math is hard, but teachers don’t have that problem. Teachers learn to help kids. There were never any education majors in the higher level math classes. You don’t need to know how to do Laplace transforms to teach long division, but you will see it on the GRE. I would be willing to bet that if you looked at math teachers with a degree in mathematics, chemistry teachers with a degree in chemistry, or history teachers with a degree in history you would see higher GRE scores. My dad has been teaching fifth grade for as long as I can remember. My sister teaches second grade. She had trouble with the GRE. I might have had a better score than they did, but I can guarantee I could never do what they do in the classroom. There are a lot of problems with the public education system, but almost none of them are due to the teachers.

  6. I’ve got some research somewhere that shows that the distribution of students entering teacher ed is skewed. If you take the top 10 percent of students in the university, they evenly disperse across various professional and liberal arts schools. But those in the next group, the top 10-50 percent, they avoid Ed School, while a disproportionate number of those in the bottom 50 percent opt for ed school.

    When you take an average of that skewed distribution, it inevitably comes out lower.

    We puzzle over the distribution a lot here. Having taught undergrad teacher ed, I can say that I saw it in my students. In my tiny, biased sample, I think the really smart kids who go into teacher ed have a sense of mission. They WANT to teach because they want to help. Kind of like the TFA applicants, who are among the top students in the nation.

  7. Re JennyD’s comment: “I think the really smart kids who go into teacher ed have a sense of mission.”

    Yes, and it’s that sense of mission that will get them through the challenges/disillusionment faced by educators everywhere. It’s that sense of mission that bumps up against the tendency to burn out… it’s what keeps good folks in the profession, thank goodness. Teachers who feel this sense of mission take extra classes, research effective teaching strategies, focus on student achievement as the priority. Mission-focused teachers break down the isolating culture of the current school setting, and seek out/provide collegial support. It’s the mission-focus that helps one accept the pay scale, sometimes sorry work conditions,and society’s general lack of respect.

    Mission-focus without smarts isn’t enough. Smarts without mission makes for a bland, unmotivated teacher who should leave the profession for the good of the children as well as their own satisfaction.

    I have decided that the word mission will now replace “art” when I think about great teaching and great teachers. Great word, Jenny, and it leaves lots of room for the ideas you have about defining teaching practices.

  8. Mrs.Ris wrote:

    Smarts without mission makes for a bland, unmotivated teacher who should leave the profession for the good of the children as well as their own satisfaction.

    Unfortunately, the good of the children isn’t necessarily enough reason for a bland, unmotivated teacher to forego a paycheck. What do you do then, if you are motivated by what’s good for the children?

  9. ragnarok says:

    Adam said:

    “You don’t need to know how to do Laplace transforms to teach long division, but you will see it on the GRE.”

    These scores are for the General Test, not the Advanced. It’s been a while since I took the GRE, but I don’t remember any advanced math on the General Test.

  10. I had one question on Laplace on my GRE. It was the hardest of the math questions. I went to a very heavy engineering school. Perhaps our tests were different.

  11. ragnarok says:

    Adam,

    It’s a standardised test, so by definition the level of the questions would be the same for every test-taker.

    You might consider the test easy or difficult depending on the rigour of your undergrad courses, but that’s quite different from having an easy test for someone from one U and a difficult test for someone from another U.

  12. JennyD: My unscientific observations line up with yours. I like your description. I’d break “mission” down into some other traits, but that’s a good way of describing the best teachers I’ve worked with.

  13. Tom West says:

    I somehow doubt that high GRE scores are going to correlate particualrly well with success teaching in an inner-city school.

    Universities are full of professors who know course content, yet few of them could successfully teach unmotivated students lacking in discipline.

    Even if GREs correlate to later content mastery, it is questionable in my mind whether content mastery is the primary factor of educator success in schools where the most improvement is needed.

    Indeed, I wouldn’t be suprised that the sort of demeanour necessary to survive teaching the worst schools has an inverse correlation with the educator’s academic achievement.

  14. ragnarok says:

    Tom West said:

    “I somehow doubt that high GRE scores are going to correlate particualrly well with success teaching in an inner-city school.”

    You don’t want rocket scientists to be teachers, as most of them would be bored out of their skulls, and would be bad teachers to boot. I think the best teachers are those with reasonable intelligence and a genuine ability to deal with kids.

    The problem is that Education Policyist tried to argue that teachers score as well as lawyers, doctors, electrical engineers and so on. The GRE example shows that that’s not true.

    “Indeed, I wouldn’t be suprised that the sort of demeanour necessary to survive teaching the worst schools has an inverse correlation with the educator’s academic achievement.”

    Mike Tyson, perhaps?

  15. Tom West says:

    Mike Tyson, perhaps?

    🙂 A mental image of a classroom of gang members all being very, very quiet comes to mind…