In Getting the teachers we want in Education Next, Rick Hess laments the U.S. tendency to hire ever more teachers, dipping deeper into the talent pool, rather than paying more to the best candidates.
If policymakers had maintained the same overall teacher-to-student ratio since the 1970s, we would need 1 million fewer teachers, training could be focused on a smaller and more able population, and average teacher pay would be close to $75,000 per year.
It’s time to rethink teaching, Hess writes. We can’t hire 200,000 smart 22-year-olds every year and expect them to teach for 30 or 40 years.
There are smarter, better ways to approach the challenge at hand: expand the hiring pool beyond recent college graduates; staff schools in ways that squeeze more value out of talented teachers; and use technology to make it easier for teachers to be highly effective.
Schools fail to take advantage of teachers’ talents, he writes. The fourth-grade teacher who’s great at teaching reading should spend her time teaching reading; a math specialist should focus on math. An aide might handle administrative tasks. Only 68 percent of classroom time is spent on instruction, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).
The challenge, in short, is to find ways to “squeeze more juice from the orange” by using support staff, instructional specialization, and technology to ensure that effective educators are devoting more of their time to educating students.
Specialization has worked in other professions, Hess argues. Surgeons don’t spend time negotiating with insurance companies; “not even junior attorneys are expected to file their own paperwork, compile their billing reports, or type letters to clients.”
Technology can reduce teachers’ administrative load and bring tutors and teachers to students in places where it’s hard to attract talent.
All this will require a new way of paying teachers, Hess writes.
Don’t expect to hire superstar teachers, writes Checker Finn on Education Gadfly.
. . . every time we find ourselves slipping into a “best and brightest” reverie, we should pinch ourselves. It’s folly to suppose that any occupation numbering more than four million people–and consuming one tenth of the educated workforce–is going to be staffed predominantly by superstars. Nor is it going to command superstar pay.
With “mere mortals” dominating the teaching force, “that calls for greater attention to structured curricula (including the scripted kind), to technology, to proven school designs, and to organizing the K-12 delivery system in ways that get the greatest possible bang from its relative handful of superstars.”
Recruitment incentives attract smart people to tough schools, according to a new paper on California’s $20,000 Governor’s Teaching Fellowship. The goal was to “get academically talented grads to teach in the state’s neediest schools and keep them there for four years,” reports NCTQ’s bulletin. Quitters had to repay the state $5,000 for each unfulfilled year.