Sunday, March 13, 2011

How Do Successful School Systems Treat Teachers?

"Drawing from research summarized in Linda Darling-Hammond's The Flat World and Education, common features of the teacher experience in places like the Scandinavian nations, Singapore, South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong include:
  • Between three and four years of high-quality teacher education, typically funded at government expense. Pre-service teacher education programs in these places tend to include courses in content-specific pedagogy to develop teachers' knowledge of how their discipline works and empower them to help learners deal with certain types of conceptual issues unique to their field, research projects where teachers write theses on teaching practice and other issues in the schools, and at least one year of training within a school setting. Like the rest of the teaching and learning system, teacher education programs are regularly evaluated and updated, with teachers playing a central role in the process.
  • Extensive mentoring and meaningful ongoing professional development. Teachers in these systems spend their first years working closely with veteran teachers, who often receive special training on how to be good mentors. New and veteran teachers alike spend a considerable amount of time engaging in professional learning, which is often embedded within the generous amounts of time (between 15-25 hours a week!) they have for collaborative planning. They frequently do action research projects with their colleagues and present their learning to other teachers through publications or at conferences. Release time for observations in other teachers' classrooms is also common, after which teachers take time to critique each other and offer feedback.
  • Leadership development. Teachers are given the opportunity to develop curriculum and assessments, mentor and coach teachers, and offer professional development. The strongest teachers are recruited to become principals, who are trained to serve as instructional leaders.
  • Professional pay and status. Teachers are paid comparably to members of other professions, and teaching itself is highly honored. Some governments make special efforts to recruit their best students into the teaching profession, which simultaneously boosts the strength of the teaching corps and the prestige of the profession as a whole.
Unlike our international peers, Americans don't consider teaching a prestigious profession or even much of a profession at all ("Those who can, do, those who can't, teach"). We don't invest in teachers or teaching, we only nominally (if at all) involve teachers in the process of making major decisions about education, and we've even become shockingly comfortable with the idea of teaching being a disposable job -- something people do for a couple of years before moving on to something else (...better? ...More important?).

And our national conversation about improving the quality of teaching focuses primarily on "getting rid of bad teachers." Instead of doing what's necessary to develop and keep good teachers, like improving teacher education and induction programs, implementing comprehensive evaluation systems and embedding teachers in supportive, well-resourced school communities, America glorifies whomever seems the most willing to fire people."

 Read the Entire Article: