Why Better Teachers are Needed in the U.S.
Nations are built and sustained by an educated population, but the U.S. is steadily falling behind other developed nations. We now know that the single most important factor in determining student outcomes is the quality of the teacher, yet as a nation we are not taking the measures necessary to ensure that every child has an excellent teacher, every year. And in our urban cities, the children who need the best teachers in the nation are often given the least experienced and least effective teachers available.
The teacher pipeline falls short at every stage:
- Recruitment of teacher candidates: The U.S. draws its pool of teachers from the bottom third of high school graduates while top-performing nations get their talent from the top-third of graduates.
- Inadequate teacher preparation programs: A common indictment of teacher preparation programs is that almost everyone can be accepted, and almost everyone graduates. These programs are often highly theoretical, without grounding in real classroom experience. As a result, teachers with education degrees are no more likely to improve student performance than teachers without such degrees.
- Lack of correlation between teacher licensing and effectiveness: Many states currently license new teachers based on their completion of a preparation program and their ability to pass a state licensure test without considering evidence of correlation between these licenses and effectiveness.
When it comes to hiring new teachers, urban districts are forced to play the teacher lottery: Hoping that a new teacher will be effective, without any mechanism for guarantee. UTC believes the best way to gauge whether teachers will be effective is to assess whether they have been effective.