Invert the paradigm

If you’re an educator, I don’t need to belabor the point that American teachers aren’t respected as much as they should be. In other high-performing countries, educators are revered. Why is this?

Amanda Ripley does an excellent job explaining this in her book The Smartest Kids in the World. Of course, there’s no way to pinpoint exactly how American teachers have become such a joke to many community members, but there are a lot of interesting theories, and teachers aren’t off the hook as to why it has come to this.

First, teaching credential programs in the U.S. are ubiquitous and hold very low standards for admittance. We need to shut down schools, many of which are for-profit, that churn out candidates without preparing them for the classroom.

Second, candidates should face the same rigor law and medical students experience. This will not only attract applicants who seek a challenge, it will also weed out the people who don’t have the true desire to teach. The teaching credential program will finally have a gatekeeper.

Third, if candidates face more “punitive” measures during the credential program, then there can be less draconian policies aimed at teachers (and students) once they’re in the classroom. Because teachers faced a rigorous process in college, they can handle more autonomy in the classroom. This will foster creative and interactive lesson plans that are designed by people who are truly qualified to teach.

Fourth, pay teachers more. I don’t mean pay all teacher more, at least at first. Just pay first year teachers more. I’m thinking $70,000 right off the bat.

How will we pay for this? Here are two ideas:

  • Stop wasting money on expensive gadgets. Instead of putting smart boards in every classroom, put in smart teachers.
  • Stop paying publishers for expensive curriculum–especially when qualified teachers can create the curriculum themselves.

The investment in people will yield rich dividends and doesn’t depreciate in value.