You can’t tell good teachers from bad teachers (or good from bad quarterbacks) till you see them in action, writes Malcolm Gladwell in The New Yorker. So let lots of people try teaching at apprentice wages, but hire only the best, perhaps one out of four apprentices. Highly effective teachers are worth high wages.
. . . there is no point in raising standards if standards don’t track with what we care about. Teaching should be open to anyone with a pulse and a college degree — and teachers should be judged after they have started their jobs, not before.
BaltoNorth contrasts Gladwell’s approach with McKinsey findings summarized in The Economist: High-performing school systems train only the best applicants. Salaries don’t have to be high if the profession’s prestige is high.
Singapore screens candidates with a fine mesh before teacher training and accepts only the number for which there are places. Once in, candidates are employed by the education ministry and more or less guaranteed a job. Finland also limits the supply of teacher-training places to demand. In both countries, teaching is a high-status profession (because it is fiercely competitive) and there are generous funds for each trainee teacher (because there are few of them).
In response to Gladwell, Eduwonkette makes an excellent point: Teachers are good or bad in context. Like quarterbacks, teachers work as part of a team.
Even the most gifted quarterbacks end up with pretty crappy pass completion stats if their teammates consistently miss the ball. And a great quarterback doesn’t look so great if he’s a poor fit for the team he’s playing with. The same goes for teachers.
Teach for America, which combines rigorous screening with a two-year apprenticeship, combines both approaches. But many of the new teachers don’t stay in the classroom. I see The New Teachers Project, which works with TFA, is training effective teachers in Louisiana, which analyzes the value added by graduates of teacher education programs in the state.
Teachers, what do you think? Would you rather see apprenticeships for would-be teachers — and how would this avoid hurting the apprentices’ students? — or much higher requirements for teacher trainees?