Today I listened to radio show "Stand Up! with Pete Dominick"that featured an interview with National Center on Education and The Economy (NCEE) President Marc Tucker.
I was struck by Mr. Tucker's take on education in the U.S. and the need for reform. Tucker stated that education reform policy in this country is primarily focused on identifying the worst teachers and then getting rid of them. However, said Tucker, "A country can't fire its way to a first rate teaching force."
Singapore, Canada, Japan, Finland, Australia, and New Zealand are among the countries that are outperforming the US (currently ranked anywhere from 17th to 27th place) in the quality of education provided to their citizens (as determined by international tests). These countries have all come to realize the same thing...that no first class schools exist without first class teachers. According to Tucker, leaders in these countries also believe that they can not compete in the global economy unless all students, not just kids in elite schools, have great teachers.
- Schools of Education must become very rigorous and must draw their students from the top 1/3 of their high school class. Entrance to such schools should be as competitive as trying to get into law school or engineering school. Mastery of subjects is essential.
- Teachers who meet the standards of a rigorous education school should receive the types of salaries given to professionals (like lawyers/engineers/architects).
- There should be career ladders for teachers so they can move up in responsibility, status, and pay, as they move toward becoming master teachers.
- New teachers should receive significant support during their beginning years as a teacher.
Is NYS doing the right thing in engaging in high stakes tests with students as young as 3rd grade and using the test results to measure the quality of teachers? The Economic Policy Institute issued a report in 2010 about the use of standardized test scores to evaluate teachers.
According to the report, "The methodologies being pushed as part of the Race to the Top (RTTT) program placed too much emphasis on measures of growth in student achievement that have not yet been adequately studied for the purpose of evaluating teachers and principals."
Is New York State's teacher evaluation system and onerous mandated testing of students helping the state create first rate teachers (and, thus, first rate schools) or are these reform measures just a misguided attempt to fire our way to a first rate teaching force?