The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way The Smartest Kids in the World question

Teacher colleges
Walter Bowne Walter Aug 31, 2013 08:41AM
The National Council on Teacher Quality review "is a scathing assessment of colleges' education programs and their admission standards, training and value. The report, which drew immediate criticism, was designed to be provocative and urges leaders at teacher-training programs to rethink what skills would-be educators need to be taught to thrive in the classrooms of today and tomorrow." CBS news.

Should states or federal govt deny funding to state schools that prepare teachers if the standards are not raised? Should we follow in Finland's steps?

Marks54 (last edited Sep 18, 2013 01:57PM ) Sep 18, 2013 01:50PM   0 votes
I do not wish to defend our colleges of education. The Finnish example has several components that need to be adopted in order to be successful. The model involves not only upgrading teachers colleges but upgrading the teaching profession. This is not intended as a disparagement of current US teachers but is a reflection of how professions work and why some professions can consistently attract quality students and lead them to high paying careers.

First, the colleges need to be more selective - they need to attract some of the best students as the basis for a new generation of teachers. Applicants lacking in basic capabilities need to be rejected.

Second, the curriculum at these colleges needs to be research based and rigorous. It should be difficult to obtain a teaching degree. Successfully completing these programs needs to be a challenge for quality students. Much of the current capacity for educating teachers will need to be closed down as well. If the supply of quality teachers is not reduced, the graduates will not be able to command higher salaries for any extended period.

Third, these capable teachers who have succeeded in a demanding program need to be well paid and respected. Teaching careers need to be competitive in compensation and prospects to other professional careers. If not, the best students will not choose teaching but will select other professions instead. Those quality students who do choose teaching will not remain as teachers after they graduate. The book makes clear that this respect involves giving teachers the authority and discretion to apply their knowledge and skills to their classrooms as they feel necessary. Upgrading the profession involves not just improving standards but also empowering teachers -- it involves a balance of centralization and decentralization.

If the profession is not upgraded, then quality students will not come to teachers colleges even if they have raised their standards. Any short-term gains from enhancing the schools will likely dissipate once graduates run into the reality of the profession in its current state.

The Finnish model is extraordinary and was difficult to implement in a country that is much smaller and much more homogenous than the US. If you factor in the much larger population of the US, its much greater diversity, and its local funding arrangements, it becomes hard to see how the Finnish model could be applied here under current conditions.

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