Fixing The System And Improving The Quality Of Our Teachers
Anyone will tell you that a qualified, well-trained, and prepared teachers corps is the linchpin of a successful education system. Yet in the United States, teaching programs have proliferated, anyone can get in somewhere, and teachers oftentimes are thrown into the classroom with one instruction - "teach" - without the kind of experience, training, supervision, and ongoing professional development and constructive feedback that one would expect (especially for a world leader and superpower like the United States). An article I read over the weekend by New York Times columnist Joe Nocera (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/28/opinion/three-sisters-not-chekhovs.html?_r=0) cited a recent study (which I haven't yet read) finding that 75% of our country's teaching programs are considered just "mediocre." The study also found that "the field of teacher preparation has rejected any notion that its role is to train the next generation of teachers." The article suggests that the burden of training teachers has shifted to the new teacher's employer. From what I have gathered, this training and professional development does not seem to be happening in adequate doses at the school level. If all the above is true, it would mean that not only are teachers expected to become prepared to teach while on the job, but also that they are expected to become prepared on the job on their own.
Amanda Ripely, the subject of my 8/23/13 blog post, provides an interesting perspective concerning this issue in her new book, The Smartest Kids In The World. In other countries considered world leaders in education, being admitted to teaching school is a competitive and selective process. Graduating from such programs is rigorous. Intensive practical training is also required and involves constant constructive feedback from an experienced supervisor. Teachers are expected to become prepared before stepping into the classroom, not after. Only then are teachers told to "go teach" and given the professional autonomy to run their classrooms as they see fit.
Our system is broken in this respect. What are we doing to fix it?