In Education Week, Stanford Education Professor Linda Darling-Hammond outlines a Marshall Plan for Teaching inspired by doctors’ training. Investing in better training and support for new teachers would cut turnover, which she estimates costs $2 billion a year. Given that teachers are more effective with a few years of classroom experience, it also should improve teaching quality.
First, the federal government should establish service scholarships to cover training costs in high-quality programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels for young and midcareer recruits who will teach in high-need fields or locations for at least four years. (After three years, teachers are more likely to remain in the profession and make a difference for student achievement.) Because fully prepared novices are twice as likely to stay in teaching as those who lack training, shortages could be reduced rapidly if districts could hire better-prepared teachers. Virtually all the vacancies currently filled with emergency teachers could be filled with well-prepared teachers if 40,000 service scholarships of up to $25,000 each were offered annually. (Price tag: $1 billion per year.)
The plan also includes recruitment incentives, better teacher preparation, mentoring and performance assessments focused on teaching skill rather than pencil-and-paper tests of subject-matter knowledge.
Darling-Hammond is a foe of alternative programs, such as Teach for America, that put smart but lightly trained teachers in high-need schools. Some stay on but most leave after two years, just when they’ve got enough experience to know what they’re doing.
Thanks to the seniority system, experienced teachers tend to transfer from high-need schools — especially those that are disorderly and poorly led — leaving the neediest students with a succession of novice teachers. Persuading more experienced teachers to work in high-need schools is critical.