Better teachers

The Race to the Top competition pushed states to change education policies in 2010, concludes the National Council on Teacher Quality in its State Teacher Policy Yearbook. Twenty-one states now require annual evaluations of all teachers, up from 15 in 2009. Fourteen states now hold teacher preparation programs accountable for their graduates’ students performance, up from only one the year before.

However, “most states’ evaluation, tenure and dismissal policies remain disconnected from classroom effectiveness,” NCTQ concludes. In addition, “rather than working to expand the teacher pipeline, many states create obstacles in their alternate routes to certification.”

“Simply put, the nation’s thousands of teacher preparation programs are good at churning out teachers but far less successful at ensuring that those teachers meet the needs of public schools and students,” say the authors.  

The brief proposes creating a federal framework for evaluating teacher preparation programs, using “outcomes-based indicators of quality,” and establishing competitive grants to encourage states and institutions to change “how, and how rigorously, they monitor, evaluate, and improve their teacher preparation programs.”  Streamlining financial aid should include  “eliminating TEACH Grants, an ineffective pre-service grant program, and using those resources to expand debt forgiveness benefits for high-quality classroom teachers.”

Education Week has several commentaries on the future of teaching.

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Comments

  1. I would love to go to a Doctor who, rather than going to medical school, took an “alternate route.”

  2. Qualification and certification are two different things. If a med school fails to do its job at qualifying those who wish to be doctors, it will get shut down as a diploma mill. Ed schools, on the other hand, churn out scores of teachers who are certified but are not necessarily qualified. Statistics show that education students overall tend to have lower SAT/ACT scores and GPAs than those in other majors.

    If you want quality teachers, you have to focus on rigor: e.g., at the very least, make sure they have a bachelor’s in the subject they want to teach. If an “alternate route” produces qualified teachers, what’s the problem? (Apart from ed schools losing face, status, and money, of course.)

    Certification be damned.

  3. Peace Corps says:

    As an “alternatively trained” teacher, most of my students tell me that I am the first teacher they have had in YEARS that actually teaches math. I started teaching at age 48. I was officially trained in chemical engineering. I wish there were more high school teachers that were “alternatively trained” — that have more life experience using their subject matter.

  4. Statistics show that education students overall tend to have lower SAT/ACT scores and GPAs than those in other majors.

    You really need to upgrade your talking points.

  5. Tim-10-ber says:

    I agree with Lee and peacecorp. Who says a qualified teacher has to be a 21 or 22 year old fresh out of college with no experience other than school. I love having teachers in the classroom that really know their subject, have other experience and chose education as a second career. I think these teachers and incredible value.

    I would love to see a couple of years of an apprentice program from new teachers to give them more experience, closer relationship with a highly qualified and effective teacher before the new teacher gets their own class room. All the reason to move the first eligible time for tenure to five years and then operate under a three year contract.

    To cal yes entrance scores are probably increasing for teachers today but many of the ones in the system today, well…

  6. It’s not that the scores have been increasing (although they have), but that high school teachers have rarely majored in education and elementary school teachers have had to do much more than major in ed for quite some time.

    In California, at least, high school teachers have never had anything to do with the SAT scores of ed majors.

    I would love to see a couple of years of an apprentice program from new teachers to give them more experience, closer relationship with a highly qualified and effective teacher before the new teacher gets their own class room.

    Sure, let’s have it take longer to become a teacher. On what planet would that make it a more attractive option for qualified candidates?

    Foolish indeed to force people to apprentice for two years. I imagine it would make unions happy, though–less competition and more free labor in the classroom.

    Speaking personally, shoot me now at the idea of “helping” someone for two years. The only people who would seriously proposed that must think teaching is rilly rilly hard, and it’s not.

  7. Cal,

    It takes very long NOW to become a teacher, but for contrived reasons. You have to sit through philosophy of education discussions, discussions on whether teaching is a calling or a profession or a job, countless powerpoint presentations about bullying, and dozens of ludicrous lesson plans in subjects and age groups you’ll never see. You graduate from this program just as unprepared to teach as you were the day you started. Plus, you now compete against people who thrive on all the babble but are in reality fun babysitters more than teachers. I would much rather have spent two years in an apprenticeship.
    instead of the nearly three years I spent soaking up edubabble.

  8. You really need to upgrade your talking points.

    2010 Stats for SAT:

    Ed majors:

    Mean Critical Reading score: 481, placing 26th out of 38 majors
    Mean Mathematics score: 486, placing 28th out of 38 majors
    Mean Writing score: 477, placing 25th out of 38 majors

    Not exactly the cream of the crop, eh?

    I stand by my original statement.

  9. Michael E. Lopez says:

    Tim-10-ber saith:

    Who says a qualified teacher has to be a 21 or 22 year old fresh out of college with no experience other than school.

    If you ask me, it’s not a question of “who says”, but one of “Who the hell would think such a crazy idea.”

    Teaching isn’t hard — Cal’s right about that — but it helps immensely if you have something substantial to offer your students. Fresh college graduates who have something substantial (and they are few and far between) to offer usually don’t go into teaching — at least as far as I can tell from the college students I teach. The reason, I suspect, is that very thing which gives them something substantial to offer (a highly developed skill, a set of really incredible experiences, etc.) guides them directly into other careers. Teaching is seen by my students as a sort of failure, a default if nothing goes wrong. Most of them would rather go be retail managers (which, incidentally, is a fine career choice) and attempt to work the corporate ladder than go into teaching.

    Just because you’re old enough to be a decent parent to an infant doesn’t mean you have anything yet to offer teenagers. A bit of reflection on the experiences of your youth is helpful, I think, before you start trying to turn those experiences into some sort of pedagogy.

  10. Plausible Deniability says:

    Lee… you totally missed the point of Cal’s criticism. Granted, I think she’s somewhat blinkered by her experiences here in the Golden State; things work a little differently in large swaths of the country. But still — when someone has already responded to a particular line of criticism (Tim took up your flag for a moment, prompting a response from Cal) it’s generally polite not to make them repeat themselves.

    Nevertheless, I take your point and agree with it. Education majors — and, frankly, education graduate students — tend not to be the sharpest tools in the shed. I saw a number of principals-in-training get verbally eviscerated by Michelle Rhee the other night at a talk. I felt bad for them, both because they were being embarrassed and because they didn’t seem to realize that they were being embarrassed. They weren’t good speakers, and they didn’t seem to possess much in the way of intellectual subtlety.

  11. Interesting how the universities seem happy to take the students’ money without being held accountable for the results. Interesting how our classrooms seem to mirror this. We continue to hear more about the need to move to a rewards system for effective educators.

    Certainly, the states and the Federal government should raise the bar when it comes to the quality of applicants admitted to teach our children. We would not let just anyone take an important post related to National Defense, and we must certainly have our brightest minds working to solve the “reliance on foreign resources” problem that we face as a country. Why would we not insist that only the top minds, and the most effective teachers, take up the mantle of educating our children for the 21st Century? It seems only logical, as Education is an absolute National Security Priority.

  12. Based on my friend’s experiences in ed school, one reason the people IN the major aren’t so sharp is because the classes are horribly dull and make most intelligent people want to shoot themselves in the head.

    The amount of material covered is pathetic, the ‘tough reading’ is not, the papers are just an exercise in parroting and the professors treat their students like second graders.

    And then we complain we don’t have more intelligent K-3 teachers. Maybe the problem is the hazing process that we call ‘ed school.’

    I think a good answer would be less time in a seat listening to lectures on material you could have tought yourself in an hour on the weekend, and more time as a student teacher…

    But that’s precisely what many of the alternate paths try to provide.

  13. I wouldn’t argue for a moment against the point that ed school is dull and worthless. And I went to a top ed school, with classmates who went to Harvard, Yale, Berkeley, UCLA, and every other elite school you can name. None of them had education majors. None of them had low SAT scores.

    And all of the high school candidates, like every other ed school candidate in California, had to pass a test that can’t be passed unless you had a 550 on the math or reading part of the SAT (depending on the subject), and a 550 on the equivalent SAT subject test. The elementary school candidates had to pass a test equating to at least a 500 on same.

    Education majors aren’t becoming teachers unless they pass the test. Lots of idiots get a degree in education before they find out they can’t pass the qualifying test. So yammering about SAT scores doesn’t prove a thing.

    Again, and focus hard: most high school teachers did not major in education, so SAT scores are pointless for evaluating high school teacher pools. These days, far fewer elementary school teachers get education degrees, and even if they did, it doesn’t mean they became a teacher. That is true in all states since 2002.

    Finally, as I’ve said many times before: it’s up to the states, not ed schools, to set teacher standards. They do. They have been for many years. It bespeaks considerable ignorance on the subject to yammer about the SAT scores of education majors.

  14. it’s generally polite not to make them repeat themselves.

    I apologize; I was defending myself against the accusation that my “talking point” (i.e., data) was outdated.

    I have actually taught a “math for elementary ed students” at my local community college, so I have anecdotal evidence which corroborates the aforementioned data.

  15. Michael E. Lopez says:

    Say we’re going to have a high school.

    Say we’re going to have a test that students take towards the end of high school. Let’s call it the SACT. This test is going to be used for college admissions, and is also a decent broad-brushed gauge for whether or not students have managed to learn some Math and English.

    Say the SACT is scored on a 2400 point scale.

    Say we’re going to hire some teachers to work at this high school.

    Is it crazy to think that the teachers — every last one of them in every subject — at the school should, as adults, be able to get somewhere in the high 98th percentile on the test that we’re giving the students?

    I don’t think that’s crazy. But maybe that’s because I’m crazy.

  16. “Yammering,” eh? Okay….

    I rather suspect that ed schools vs states setting the standards is more of a chicken-egg thing, though: Rightly or wrongly, ed schools are the perceived experts in educating children, and are more influential in the certification process than you give them credit for.

  17. >Is it crazy to think that the teachers — every last one of them in every subject — at the school should, as adults, be able to get somewhere in the high 98th percentile on the test that we’re giving the students?

    Yes. It’s positively deluded, in fact. It certainly denotes a complete incompetence in math, for example, since it’s impossible to find as many teachers as needed from the 98th percentile–even assuming we took every single one.

    It is not, however, unreasonable to argue that they should be from the 60th and higher percentile.

  18. Rightly or wrongly, ed schools are the perceived experts in educating children, and are more influential in the certification process than you give them credit for.

    Doesn’t matter. It’s the state that signs off. Find any ed school’s applicant requirements, and it will list the state requirements. Which includes a test that is administered and scored by the state.

  19. Mark Roulo says:

    Is it crazy to think that the teachers — every last one of them in every subject — at the school should, as adults, be able to get somewhere in the high 98th percentile on the test that we’re giving the students?

    Yes, this is probably crazy.

    Assume that the US has a population of about 300M. The US workforce is about ½ that … 150M or so. Taking only the top 2% of this gives us 3M people that you would consider acceptable to teach high school.

    According to Wikipedia, “In 2009, there were over 6.2 million teachers in elementary and secondary schools [in the US].” If we assume that 2/3 of those are teaching K-8, then we have about 2M people teaching high school (this seems high to me, by the way …).

    Do you really expect that you can get 2/3 of the top 2% in terms of academic ability to teach high school? Lots of these people don’t want to teach at all. They want to work at Intel and build things, or program computers. Or work at investment banks. Or become doctors. Or lawyers.

    We are not going to be able to get 2/3 of the top 2% to teach high school.

  20. Furthermore, just because someone is in the top 98th percentile in performance in a particular subject area, that doesn’t mean they are capable of teaching that information. Teaching involves a skill set which includes the ability to appropriately break down specific tasks needed to learn a subject. While someone with good subject matter knowledge has the information available to perform that sort of task analysis, they may not have the ability to understand how to break a task down into learnable steps at the level they’re teaching it.

    And I’ll chime in to agree with Cal that SAT scores of education majors are irrelevant. A look at the preprofessional exams required for entry into most decent state-certified ed programs would be more relevant. There’s the Praxis pre-professional exam and the C-BEST…word on the street is that the Praxis is more rigorous than the C-BEST. Then again, I didn’t major in education until graduate school, and I’d argue that my special education cohort program was fairly rigorous…but I also belonged to a competitive and aggressively academically rigorous cohort. Sped programs also differ from general ed teaching programs. Comparing notes with recent grads from general ed programs, I found that the portfolio samples I was required to put together and turn in to have on file for state review were more extensive and detailed in requirements than the general ed teachers were required to do.

  21. There’s the Praxis pre-professional exam and the C-BEST

    The CBEST is not the California qualifying test. It never was the only high school qualifying test, and it hasn’t been the elementary school test since 2002. It’s now the ground floor for substitutes. Teachers have to take it, but the qualifying tests are the CSETs, not the CBEST.

    The CSETs are slightly harder than the Praxis, in my opinion, although I am not sure what the cut scores are so I can’t say for sure.

  22. Michael E. Lopez says:

    When someone you generally take to be an intelligent person says/writes something that strikes you as not only wrong, but betraying a “complete incompetence in math”, it might be a good time to slow down and ask yourself if you’ve actually understood what you just heard/read, and if perhaps the fault lies in your understanding rather than in the proposing. It won’t always be the case that you’re in the wrong, of course, but it’s a good general rule to follow because it allows you to avoid looking foolish. You might even find that what was said or written is ambiguous, in which case you’ll have a chance to ask for clarification.

    I shall now repeat, verbatim, what I wrote earlier, with a little bit of bold emphasis.

    Is it crazy to think that the teachers — every last one of them in every subject — at the school should, as adults, be able to get somewhere in the high 98th percentile on the test that we’re giving the students?

    I am not suggesting that we go to the top 98% of test takers and ask them if they want to be teachers. What I’m suggesting is that we might expect ADULT TEACHERS, now college-educated and ready to assume the duties of preparing the next crop of citizens, to now score in the top 98% of ADOLESCENT HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS currently taking the exam.

    Presumably, one would expect that one would be be better at the SAT after college than before college, college being a 4-year period of reading and writing and math, and all that. Frankly, my guess is that some 20-30% of college graduates could probably get in the 98th percentile of high school age test-takers.

    Now, maybe you disagree. Maybe you don’t think there are enough adults alive right now who can do better than the top2% of high school students to make a decent teaching force. Maybe you think college has no effect whatsoever on a person’s SAT score, or that it even drops. That’s fine.

    But please don’t assume that I’m an idiot. I say many false and foolish things, but golly jee whillakers, this isn’t one of them.

    And finally, thank you, Mark, for at least being polite in your response.

  23. Roger Sweeny says:

    Adding two years of apprenticeship to the present system would indeed make it harder to find people willing to go through the process. Replacing the years of ed courses with two years of apprenticeship might make it easier to get people.

    As a number of people have mentioned, ed courses have a reputation for being useless and boring.

    If potential teachers thought they were going to be shown by good teachers how to do a good job themselves, I think many would love that opportunity. Of course, the apprenticeship would actually have to do that–and yes, the “master” would have to be paid for the instruction.

  24. I didn’t major in education, either. I’m also not sure what 2010 SAT scores have to do with people currently teaching (?). Finally, most people in the vast middle of the country (I realize we don’t count) take the ACT.

    I have taken released ACT, SAT, and AP exams as part of my prep to teach courses. Yes, they seem quite simple to me now. I’m sure I could score above 98% of adolescents. Not so sure about other adults. I had a higher math SAT than a good friend of mine who now has her PhD in math — I’m sure she could outscore me now. How does that make me less qualified to teach English?

  25. What I’m suggesting is that we might expect ADULT TEACHERS, now college-educated and ready to assume the duties of preparing the next crop of citizens, to now score in the top 98% of ADOLESCENT HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS currently taking the exam.

    I know what you’re suggesting. You’re just wrong. And I’m not trying to be mean, so don’t get upset.

    What you are suggesting is that if we tested the population at large, more than 2% would score in the highest percentile of the SAT–because, after all, it’s a high school test.

    And you’re wrong.

    > . I’m sure I could score above 98% of adolescents.

    Not unless you did that well in high school.

    In other words, if you gave the SAT to all adults, the distribution would be roughly the same as it is for all high school students. College graduates wouldn’t be all that different, although (hopefully) there would be fewer entries at the bottom of the distribution.

  26. Richard Aubrey says:

    In the military, you first get to be an expert, by classes and experience, before you get instructional training. Seems to work. No expertise, no instructional training, no training slots.
    College and professional sports coaches are rarely great athletes. Which is to day, they may have been better than most guys when in their prime. But nobody ever heard Izzo tearing up whatever league he was in as a point guard. Except, possibly, in high school. Sparky Anderson. Casey Stengle. No All-star rings for those guys. Not as players.
    Point is, the ability to teach is the key. High school algebra isn’t improved by the teacher’s ability to to string theory nearly as much as if the guy is a GOOD INSTRUCTOR.

  27. Actually, Cal, I did.

  28. >Actually, Cal, I did.

    Then your statement here: “. I’m sure I could score above 98% of adolescents. ” is pretty absurdly besides the point, isn’t it? Perhaps you didn’t understand the context.

  29. Cal, only you find joy in insulting somebody agreeing with you … You sure you’re not an English teacher? :).

  30. I am an English teacher.

  31. Mike in Texas says:

    Lee,

    A few years ago there were several “studies” making the claim teachers were less than stellar students. However, if you looked at their data closely it was about high school students who said they were planning on majoring in education, not actual teachers.

    Are the studies you cite along the same lines?

  32. Richard Aubrey says:

    I’m related to half a dozen teachers, one way or another, and frequently socialize with them and their friends.
    First thing teachers talk about in education is classroom management and various problems they have had. Then comes administration issues and paperwork. Last comes subject matter. That’s the easy part.

  33. Peace Corps says:

    Subject matter may be the easy part, but unfortunately I have seen teachers that don’t know the subject matter they are teaching sufficient to be teaching it to others.

  34. Richard Aubrey says:

    Peace Corps
    That may be. I was referring to the emphasis on subject mastery in teachers without reference to classroom management and other issues. IOW, could a banker teach economics just because he knows economics? A doctor biology? A building contractor shop class?

  35. Michael E. Lopez says:

    No. Yes. Yes.

  36. I have known practicing physicians who have taught both biology and physiology classes at a local CC. According to the neighbor’s kid who took both classes, both the classes and the instruction were excellent. The same teachers who teach HS kids taking college or CC classes are considered “unqualified” to teach in high school. I remember hearing someone suggest that small-town schools who have difficulty finding qualified science teachers could look at people in the community who have expertise because even small towns are likely to have a pharmacist who could teach chemistry. The ed establishment went ballistic, of course.

  37. Richard Aubrey says:

    Michael
    Mom.
    I was speaking of el or hs. Managing a classroom is the first thing a teacher has to do.
    My wife, recently retired, discovered a new category of student. The “intentional non-learner”. Had to go to a PD meeting to hear about it. Now the phenomenon has a name. I think that’s the first step to countering the categories of students who require special dispensation but whose grades, failing mostly, are counted against the schools or teachers.
    But, anyway, a disruptive kid can stop a lesson cold. No matter how much you know.
    I think you two are picturing a banker or physician putting together a lecture. I’m talking about getting it into sophomores’ skulls. Major difference.

  38. Michael E. Lopez says:

    Actually I was picturing the sort of person who generally becomes a banker, and imagining them in a room full of teenagers. Seemed like a recipe for disaster.

    On the other hand, doctors have (pardon the pun) a more organic view of human nature and relations, and a contractor either has the gift for convincing people they need his services or he’s a broke contractor.

    I knew what you were talking about (otherwise I would have said yes about the banker, too).

    Obviously I’m trading in generalities here, but that seems safe since not even all professional teachers are any good at the things that you seem concerned with.

  39. Richard Aubrey says:

    Michael.
    I know they’re not. Point is, talking about subject mastery in teachers is useless if they can’t manage a classroom.
    As I said before, I could teach a hell of a class in a lot of things when I had sergeants for classroom control and the guys came from the top half of the age cohort and had no doubt as to the relevance of the subject matter.