U.S. can afford smart teachers

High-scoring countries recruit teachers from the top half of students, which means paying them well enough to compete with other careers open to high achievers, writes Marc Tucker in Ed Week. That could be affordable, if it reduces high turnover rates, he argues.

….In the United States, the typical teachers college graduate has left the teaching profession after five years.  The international evidence shows that, if you raise wages, raise standards for entry and improve working conditions, new teachers will stay a lot longer in the profession and the state will save a fortune on teacher training, because of the reduction in teacher turnover.  Maybe you could pay for a big raise for teachers with the savings from reduced turnover.

Teachers’ colleges want to keep standards low, even if it means producing more graduates than there are teaching jobs, writes Tucker. Unions prefer higher standards and higher pay.

Teacher quality is too important to keep ignoring, Tucker argues.

No one believes that high SAT scores or ACT scores, or high high school grade point averages by themselves guarantee that a candidate will be a good teacher. Everyone I know believes that a passion for teaching and an ability to relate well to young people are very important characteristics of good teachers.  But these are not mutually exclusive qualities.  The record shows that countries that recruit their teachers from a pool of people who score high on their college entrance exams, had high grade point averages and also show a passion for teaching and an ability to relate well to students produce higher student achievement across the board than countries that leave out one or more of these qualities when they are recruiting their students.

What’s stopping us? The “costs here come out of one pocket and the savings will be realized in another.”

I’d add:  Teachers won’t make substantially more unless salaries are linked to effectiveness — measured in some credible way — and their jobs’ degree of difficulty.

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