A Marshall Plan for teaching

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.

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Comments

  1. William Goetsch says:

    Who would pay?

  2. wayne martin says:

    1) The US (all levels of government) is spending about $1T yearly on public education already.

    2) If the current level of teacher training has turned out generation after generation of poorly performing teachers, why will throwing more money at this problem fix it?

    3) Distance learning will provide high quality education to the classroom at very low cost. Getting a national archive of instruction would cost in the $100-$200M, which could service every classroom in America. This would be a much better use of our money than throwing it into the black hole of teacher education.

  3. One problem is defining high-quality programs. No matter how noble the effort, I fear that such a program would soon start to stress ‘feel-good’ methods, fairness, diversity, self awareness, and whatever other new approaches seem popular at the time. Subject matter and actual learning would be regulated to ‘nice but not essential’. But don’t worry, we’d all be told how high-quality the program is – and given the evaluation criteria it probably would be. It just wouldn’t be what we naive non-educators believe it to be.

  4. What about doing the opposite —

    take highly idealistic new teachers,

    put them in *great* schools for two years while learning how to teach,

    *then* send them to terrible schools to work off their debt to the system?

    That way, they don’t have to deal simultaneously with learning how to teach *and* trying not to get assaulted.

  5. Interesting idea Twill00. But what are the chances that TFA types who have taught in suburban (or urban magnet) schools for a couple of years will want to transfer to an inner city school — even with the incentive of an annual credit against any school loans they have accumulated? And why would the suburban schools give up a well-trained but relatively inexpensive teacher voluntarily?

  6. retired teacher says:

    what about administration? In my experience, the school principal makes the difference. Why should a good teacher, new or experienced, continue to work for a bad administrator when there are positions available in other schools?

  7. Wayne Martin wrote:

    1) The US

    Obviously.

    2) If the current level of teacher training has turned out generation after generation of poorly performing teachers, why will throwing more money at this problem fix it?

    Depends on who’s doing the problem-defining. If you define the problem as inadequate funding and not poor educational results then more money is the solution. If you define the problem as poor educational results being inextricably tied to inadequate funding then more money is the solution.

    3) Distance learning will provide high quality education…

    It’s certainly part of the solution and just as certainly not the entire solution.

    The technology is now swimming into view to do instruction in a way that’s significantly different from Socrates’ idea of instruction. But it’s just too soon to know how that’s going to look, how it’ll evolve and what it’ll evolve into.

    As for a “Marshall Plan” for education, it’s worth keeping in mind what precipitated the need for the Marshall Plan – that would be World War II for the folks who haven’t seen “Saving Private Ryan” – and it’s dragged out, dusted off and held up as a shining example of just how terrific government can be when government has a bombed-out landscape to start with.

    It’s nonsense of course. The Marshall Plan didn’t rebuild Europe and this marshall plan won’t rebuild education since, as dismal as much of teacher training is it’s not the problem so it can’t be the solution. What’s the value of well-trained and properly prepared teachers if there’s no demand for their skills, just their certification?

    There’s a tip of the hat to the idea of differential competence in the article but it’s hardly more then that. What kind of an assessment carries no penalties for incompetence and no rewards for superior skills? And the deftness with which Ms. Darling-Hammond avoids the tricky subject of assessments for tenured teachers would be worthy of a course or two all by itself.

  8. wayne martin says:

    > Depends on who’s doing the problem-defining. If you
    > define the problem as inadequate funding and not poor
    > educational results then more money is the solution. If
    > you define the problem as poor educational results being
    > inextricably tied to inadequate funding then more
    > money is the solution.

    Defining a problem to achieve a solution is very different than analyzing a problem to find a solution rooted in reality. If it turns out that the education system is ineffective in its use of money, with no interest in results—then no amount of money will change the situation.

    > It’s certainly part of the solution and just as certainly
    > not the entire solution.

    Probably true, but introducing distance learning into the education system offers tools that can lead to lower costs and higher quality. Because of intransigence on the part of the current education establishment, best success will result by introducing these tools into teacher education and then monitor results closely for the next ten years, or so.

  9. mike from oregon says:

    Actually I have a problem with this phrase –

    “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.”

    Actually, the problem is total lack of responsibility and discipline in the schools, even in some ‘good’ ones. If you want to read about needy children then read Joann’s book (wonderful book Joann) – here were kids who were pretty much on the bottom rung of any educational ladder but the teachers merely demanded that work be done and certain standards met. It works, but not as long as social promotion exists and not as long as class discipline doesn’t exist.