Sunday, October 17, 2010

Race to the bottom

Joanne Jacobs:
Singapore, Finland and South Korea, all countries with high-performing school systems, recruit teachers from the top third of college graduates. In the U.S., only 23 percent of teachers are top graduates; that falls to 14 percent in high-poverty schools. A majority attend colleges that admit virtually all applicants. So concludes a report by the McKinsey consulting firm.
I've been reading Thomas Sowell's Inside American Education -- the Decline, the Deception, the Dogmas, and his research tells a similar story. According to Sowell, public school teachers in the U.S. consistently score at the very bottom academically compared to their peers in other fields. This has been the case for as long as we've had public schools. Similarly, U.S. school of education professors are weaker academically than those in other university disciplines. Additionally, ed school courses are notoriously nonacademic and lack both the robustness and relevance of their counterparts in other departments.

This very much jives with my personal experience. I simply couldn't wait to get through my education classes. My classmates and I commonly referred to one of the more notorious of these as "Romper Room" due to its lack of substance and juvenile presentation -- a complete waste of time and money.

Jacobs quotes an article from Education Week:
By contrast, in Finland, the process for becoming a teacher is “extremely competitive,” and “only about one in 10 applicants is accepted to become a teacher,” according to the McKinsey report. Applicants to education schools are drawn from the top 20 percent of high school classes and must pass several exams and interviews. In Finland, “teaching is the most admired profession among top students, outpolling law and medicine,” it says.
The McKinsey report suggests that U.S. public schools could attract higher caliber teachers by offering better training, working conditions, and compensation. Sowell is more pessimistic, concluding that such incentives would be insufficient to overcome the systemic hurdles maintained by ed schools and teachers unions.

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