April 27, 2010
Book Argues for How to Improve the Teaching Corps
One of the bolder ideas is to 'deselect' the field's bottom 5 to 10 percent.
By Debra Viadero
A new book stitches together ideas—some of which may be controversial—for building an improved corps of teachers from the time they start their professional training until they retire.
“Research clearly shows that teacher quality is the most important schooling factor influencing student achievement,” write Dan Goldhaber and Jane Hannaway, the editors of Creating a New Teaching Profession, which is being published this month by the Urban Institute, a research organization based in Washington.
Yet, they add, “the myriad systems that govern the quality of teachers today are too often disconnected, incoherent, and out of step with the market mechanisms that govern the broader labor market.”
Among the bolder of the book’s suggestions is a call from Stanford University economist Eric A. Hanushek for systematically “deselecting” the least-effective teachers. He calculates that shedding the bottom 5 percent to 10 percent of teachers could, over 20 years, boost American students’ scores on international math tests to the level of their Canadian counterparts and raise the United States’ economic output by $200 billion.
“Relatively modest changes in the bottom end of the distribution have enormous implications for the nation,” Mr. Hanushek concludes...
One reason the teaching profession may be ailing in the United States, experts argue, is that it’s attracting less academically able students than it once did.
In his chapter, for instance, New York University researcher Sean P. Corcoran notes that the percentage of new female teachers drawn from the top tenth of their high school graduating classes shrank from 20 percent in 1964 to slightly more than 11 percent in 2000 as women began to follow other career paths that were once dominated by men. More than a third of new female teachers, on the other hand, came out of the bottom third of their high school classes in 2000—and that proportion hasn’t changed much since the 1960s.
In comparison, some countries that typically score high on international assessments draw teachers from the upper end of the academic-achievement spectrum, according to Mr. Goldhaber. He says that’s in part because, under the more centralized teacher-preparation systems in those countries, the number of entrants is often tightly regulated and there are fewer teacher-training institutions...