Are we seeing lower numbers of great teachers?

A remarkably insightful quote from the Agenda for American Education Reform paper.

“In fact, there is reason to believe that the problem with the American teaching force is not that it has long been of low quality and must now be raised, but rather that the United States greatly benefitted for the better part of a century from having a teaching force largely made up of college-educated women whose choice of career was largely limited to nursing, secretarial work and teaching, and some minorities whose career choices were similarly constrained. Many women chose teaching because it would allow them to be home when their children came home from school. Because career choices were so limited, the American public reaped the twin blessings of a highly capable teaching force willing to work for below-market wages under poor working conditions. Those who accepted that deal are now leaving the workforce in droves. There are now more women than men in the professional schools preparing young people for many of the most prestigious professions and they are taking advantage of those opportunities. The United States is now about to get the least capable candidates applying to our education schools when we need the best.”

A lot of the paper’s findings can be directly applied to New Zealand, and there is considerable food for thought.

A bit further on is a personal bugbear:

In Shanghai, a new teacher is expected to spend the first year of employment as a teacher under the intense supervision of a master teacher. Their master teachers are relieved of all or most of their classroom responsibilities to allow them to play this role. These master teachers often sit in on every lesson taught by the new teacher, providing intense coaching. And the new teacher will also observe the master teaching many lessons, too.

The best way to assess performance and help teachers improve is by a peer or senior teacher spending  significant time in the classroom observing, giving feedback after the session. It’s something that I believe should continue throughout a career – be it teaching or otherwise.

Published by Lance Wiggs


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