Secretary of Education Discussion 3: Prepared and Qualified Teachers

Carol Broos is one of twelve teachers who have been invited to participate in a round table discussion concerning the direction of education with the new Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on Jan 21. She was sent five questions in preparation for the meeting. This is the third one:

How should the new administration respond to the nation’s need for better prepared and more qualified teachers?

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In order to have better prepared and more qualified teachers, the following should be considered:

1) Teacher preparation and teaching standards should be national and not governed by 50 different state standards;
2) Teaching licenses should be nationally issued;
3) The traditional payment method (increasing salaries by experience and educational attainment) should be reformed. Instead, beginning teachers should earn higher salaries. There is no reason why a fifth year teacher should not make as much as a 30 year veteran. Labor is equal no matter the years of experience. Thus, payment reimbursement should be based on a formula that ncludes merit pay and performance assessment (determined by administrative or peer observation of actual teaching performance);
4) The probationary period should be extended to 5 years and tenure should become renewable (e.g. every five years);
5) In order to earn a teaching certificate, student teachers must earn a certain score on pre-defined criteria (a rubric or scale can be developed). Performance on national teaching exams can be one indicator for teachers, but knowledge of the content area and classroom performance should also be taken into account before affording a teaching certificate;
6) Offer educational subsidies to attract workers from other industries to join the teaching workforce;
7) Offer housing subsidies for teachers to work in urban areas (where housing costs are disproportional to the salaries earned);
8) Teachers should meet minimum GPA requirements in undergraduate and graduate work.
Totally agree with you but senior teachers should have a way to make more if they are willing to mentor and learn by taking courses etc that are meaningful
Here are some things that are needed

For current teachers to make them more prepared.

1. A campaign to get the society as a whole to respect teachers more. This should be a major focus of the new
Secretary of Education.
2. Money from the state or national government to hire one person at each school who does all of the busy work, (copying, fundraising money collection, etc).
3. More time built into the school week for collaboration, lesson review, and planning.
4. Low cost or free continuing education classes.
5. Get top people of the business, science, technology, medical professions to speak to teachers about what they want to see in high school graduates skills.
7. More in-services and follow ups to see if teachers are using what they learned.

For new teachers and education students

1. National standards for teacher education.
2. Quality mentoring programs for new teachers.
3.A national administrator program, one that focuses on bottom up, collaborative, and continuos improvement type leadership.
4.More time for education students to teach lessons in actual classrooms.
5.Stop making education students do crazy lesson plans that are pages long and give them practical ways of designing lessons and ways to monitor the success to see if students have learned the lessons objectives. I mean when have you actually wrote a lesson plan like the ones colleges made you do and when did some one scrutinize every word on the page. Not realistic.
6.Make it cheaper for education students to go to college.
7.More audits of teacher education programs at colleges.
8.More training of teachers on accessing students knowledge.
9. Get top people of the business, science, technology, medical professions to speak to education students about what they want to see in high school graduates skills.
10. Have college professors teach students in the same good practices of that quality high school, middle school, and elementary teachers use. Professors should stop lecturing, giving out busy work, and crazy term papers. They should start having teachers collaborate, interact, discuss, meet in small groups, do cooperative learning. The way professors teach is one reason teacher are not as good as they could be.
11. National standards for professors of teacher education.

One thing is in order to make better teachers you need to make better administrators.
After reading all of the comments, I notice that only two mentioned administration. Not only do we need better prepared teachers -specifically those who have a working definition of "21st Century Skills," we need administrators who have good people management and support skills, and the same working knowledge as their teachers. Administrators should be required to be in a classroom teaching full time every few years, should be required to attend professional development that relates directly to teaching, and should be required to have the highest level of technology skills and understanding of constructivist learning. We do not need more people whose main goal is to raise standardized test scores at any cost.
We need to start requiring teachers to hold a master's degree in order to teach. All postgraduate work should be subsized for educators. A serious nation-wide increase in pay is needed to attract and preserve the most highly qualified teachers. More generous incentives should be put in place to encourage teachers to obtain their board certification. To address issues of the flight of intellectual capital and highly effective teachers we need to address funding equity of all schools and maintain manageable class sizes.
Provide better incentives, period. Incentives include status, health, working conditions, etc as well as the basics. If to do so means that we need to re-think the "local control" and "unions" well then let's get down to business. John Hendron's idea is right-on. I'm visiting Korea now so it's on my mind. Teachers here get two our of four years free at the undergrad level. Then they get a paid masters after 3 years in service. Its a very tough field to get into, but they are very highly regarded in the professional community.
I do not believe the teachers are the cause of the problem. Teachers are burnt out every year because they feel they are being blamed for something they can't control.

Now let’s blame groups of teachers
February 16th, 2008

Teachers across our nation are known to be the greatest scapegoats of all time. If anything bad happens in their profession they are told to be the cause. Hell, if anything bad happens to our society as a whole the education system is to blame. Even our unions that were built to protect both the teacher and the student are under perpetual attack.

Thomas Sowell in an article published by,, warns the reader about how the union is ready to produce, ‘slick propaganda’ about education. He goes on to state, “unions have fought bitterly against the testing of teachers or students to assess how the public schools are doing.” He supports these standardized tests because, “Such tests have repeatedly revealed the gross ignorance and incompetence of many teachers and the resulting failure of American students to come up to the standards in other countries.”

Do you think Mr. Sowell is generalizing a bit? As a teacher I clearly realize I am tested every day by my students. In order to become a teacher I had to go through a rigorous system of certification. This certification has to be renewed every three years by continuing my studying that which I am teaching. Mr. Sowell believes an additional test by some unknown outside service would do a better job? Also do the students have any responsibility with their education? Do the parents have any responsibility to their child’s education? There is an old adage in education, In order to teach one has to have students who want to learn.

Mr. Sowell complains the teacher’s unions want to have standards worked out in order to produce a viable test. He states, “What the teachers’ unions really want is to be able to put all sorts of non-academic mush into the tests, so as to reduce the failure rate and evade the need to teach academic skills.” Has Mr. Sowell ever read any state’s standard of education. I was involved in building science standards for my state. I saw no mush. I only worked with trying to organize curriculums so they can best educate students for a new future and not the past of their parents.

Mr. Sowell asks, “What are the mysterious “standards” that have yet to be developed? People have been testing math and English for centuries.” The problem with this comment is things have evolved past the pencil and paper. Our students now have to learn more technology and more intricate concepts than people like Mr. Sowell never imagined.

I would like to explain to Mr. Sowell what at teacher’s union does. First of all it unifies teachers in order to succeed with common goals. Yes, I must admit a union does attempt to increase the living standards of its members. Since the American teacher is universally considered underpaid and over-abused I do not see how this is a problem. Unions build programs like “Read across America”. I agree with Mr. Sowell this should not be the responsibility of the teachers. As stated before it should be the responsibility of the students and the parents. Mr. Sowell seems to have forgotten about this problem.

Unions are not the problem. They are simply a group of teachers attempting to be more successful with their students. Another one of Mr. Sowell’s problems with the unions is their disagreement with the policy of vouchers. This is a subject I will take up soon.
I think there is only one kind of test I would agree to take to renew my tenure: evaluation by my students. Nobody else, not my administrator, not a peer teacher, not the DOE can test me. They had their chance when i was a new teacher. Now, I only serve my students.
Do you know another profession where a senior, more experienced colleague has to retake a test to prove themselves? I don't. I take this suggestion as usual disrespect to the job i was born to do.
Teachers need time for professional development, planning and collaboration. There is a perception by the public that we only need more student-contact hours. I believe students would acheive more with less student contact time if teachers had more time to collaborate and plan instruction that is data-driven, integrated, and differentiated to meet student needs.

The resources, research, and technology that are now available to educators offer immense possibilities to improve the educational system, however there is not sufficient time to take advantage of them. The teachers who do, choose to do so on their own time, but the system as a whole can improve only if all teachers are allowed time to work together to improve teaching and learning.

We know from research that the factor that has the greatest impact on student learning is the quality of the teaching. Time and hard work are needed to implement instruction that is consistently of the highest quality. A new look at the structure of school day and school year are needed to create this time for teachers to plan and implement quality instruction.
Agreed - "data-driven, integrated, and differentiated to meet student needs". I'd add up-to-date. Despite the certification stuff, it seems assumed that teachers master their subject once, put a little ornamentation on it from time to time, but esentially they don't need to review, revise, reframe, renew, nor do they need to become familiar with new techniques of research, presentation and communication. What rubbish!
In one of the most complex real-world tasks ever conceived (which is what I regard teaching as), teachers need time to to develop. Many will take that themselves, at the cost of their families. Teachers need time to implement new modes of learning, new modes of community.
Teachers need time to review the teaching of their subject, the psychologies of children. It's all very well that I have mastered mathematics, say. But it's another thing to have mastered the teaching of mathematics, have understood the various and varied conceptual stumbling blocks, have strategies to challenge, repair or replace misconceptions of the subject/s.
After a while, more is less. More face to face creates higher drudge levels, greater disconnection and disaffection and defeat not only amongst students, but also amongst teachers.
And, whilst it may be simple to blame teachers in a broad-brush tar-and-feather style, the fact is that it's largely the group of teachers you've already got who will be the group of teachers to transform educational outcomes. (or is there a a hidden cohort of 94000 US teachers poised, and ready to take over?)
Quality out-of-class time is needed for quality in-class teachers. (Oh, and I don't mean out-of-class time that's wholly locked up in formal programs: quality time can well be time reading, time talking, time 'playing' with computer tools, projectors, IWB's, motion sensors, video recording of experimental data...)

Ah, I feel better now! Soapbox, anyone...?
Thank you for this post
I agree with you Kay, that expanding opportunities for high quality professional development is key to strengthening and expanding the teaching force.

Online professional development is one important way to do this, because it enables anytime/any place access to courses, instructors, colleagues and resources that may not be available locally or conveniently. It also provides an important opportunity to follow-up face-to-face professional development with ongoing learning and support. Because online professional development can be extended over time, it allows educators to build strong learning communities and engage in deep, reflective discussions which as you say, are critical elements of effective professional development. This important form of technology enhanced professional development also prepares teachers to bring 21st century skills into the classroom and to be prepared for how educational models are changing.

I would like to see the new administration support increased opportunities for online learning for teachers (and also for students).


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