Pop Quiz: Who is the American Teacher?
Teacher evaluation is intricately tied to teacher preparation and the future of education. In a recent interview with John Merrow, Barnett Berry and David Stiener compare notes on who and what makes up the current American teaching force. Barnett makes some excellent points that get to the heart of why teacher prep, teacher evaluation, and education reform are all talking about the same thing, what makes quality teaching. He describes the multitude of “easy button” alternative teacher certification that put inexperienced/under-supported teachers in classrooms to fail and leave teaching within five years.
These people that leave teaching so quickly could be great teachers but, they “leave before they get good at it” as Berry says. I want to make a distinction here, Barnett Berry is not talking about teacher quality, he is talking about teaching quality. I firmly believe that we need to talk about the profession of teaching from the standpoint of determining what makes great teaching not great teachers. When we talk about great teachers we always end up talking about great teachers we have known. Invariably these are selfless “super heroes” who sacrifice them selves to the greater good of society. When we talk about great teachers we should also be talking about the context of great teachers, ie great teaching. Great teaching takes place in the space between students and teachers.
Merrow also recently wrote a Huffington Post blog on the academic background of the American teaching force. It is often cited that teachers come from the least academically proficient college graduates in our country. John Merrow did the math to describe who the teachers are that we are talking about. I converted his explanation into 3 infographics. As you can see, we may not recruit the “best and the brightest” into the profession but the average American teacher is clearly above average before they even enter the classroom. Now lets talk about solutions that address teaching quality, not teacher quality. As Merrow says at the close of his post, “Could teacher training be improved? Could working conditions be improved? Could starting salaries and the bizarre compensation system that back-loads rewards be improved? Yes, yes and most definitely yes.”