Joel Klein with some great ideas on how to turn teaching into a true profession
This isn't an easy question. Lots of things need changing. For example, giving far more school choices to families, using technology to improve teaching and learning, adopting a knowledge-based curriculum and starting education before a child is 5 years old.
But if I had to choose one, it would be to professionalize teaching, making it like other well-respected professions, such as law and medicine.
Pick from the best
This kind of change would require several things, beginning with better academic training for prospective teachers. A recent report from the National Center on Teacher Quality found that "23 states cannot boast a single (teacher education) program that provides solid math preparation resembling the practices of high-performing nations." The report also found that fewer than 20% of training programs equip candidates in the basics of reading instruction.
Next, we need a new approach to recruiting teachers. For decades, we've let virtually anyone with a college degree become a teacher. According to Sandra Feldman, then-head of a national teachers union, this approach is "disastrous." We need instead to do what successful countries do: Recruit from the top third of our graduates.
Finally, we must change how we reward teachers. The current approach essentially assumes that all teachers are interchangeable, and, therefore, the only fair way to make distinctions is based onseniority. But anyone who's been in a classroom knows that teachers vary enormously in their performance.