NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Rethinking Teaching

May 16, 2011

Rethinking the teaching job seems less a bold move than a no-brainer.  We don't have to look far to find at least three ways to start rethinking the job, says Frederick Hess, a resident scholar and director of education policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

One, rethinking geographical limitations:

  • Virtual-learning options like can offer families online tutoring in a variety of subjects, 24 hours a day, from expert tutors around the world.
  • This arrangement makes it possible for students to have access to high-quality supplementary instruction either at school or from home.

Two, rethinking tasks:

  • Rocketship Education is a high-performance charter school that uses a hybrid model of classroom instruction, real-time assessments and customized, supplementary services in its "learning lab."
  • The result is that each teacher has any given student for only about 75 percent of the school day, as the student spends the other quarter receiving computer-assisted instruction or small-group tutoring from local college students.
  • This division of labor allows classroom instructors to delegate, so that they can focus on cultivating expert-level skills in coaching and motivation, instruction and discussion, classroom management, and problem-solving around student issues and needs.

Three, rethinking who can teach:

  • Boston-based Citizen Schools, for example, provides highly regarded after-school instruction and career-based learning by arranging for local volunteers to work with students on a regular basis.
  • Rather than simply serve as mentors or once-a-week "reading buddies," participants teach weekly modules that tackle complex projects with interested students.
  • Citizen Schools leverages the expertise of local professionals on a part-time (and cost-free) basis and points to the promise of approaches that do not wholly depend on full-time, career-long staffing.

Source: Frederick M. Hess, Greg M. Gunn, Olivia M. Meeks, "How to Improve Teacher Quality?  Treat Teachers as Individuals," Education Week, May 9, 2011.

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