How to Improve the Quality of K-12 Teachers

January 29, 2013

To improve America's students, we must first improve its educators, says Timothy Knowles, the John Dewey Director of the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute.

Knowles offers a comprehensive set of recommendations for how we can develop America's teachers.

  • Subsidize the cost of learning for teachers through loan forgiveness programs, increase starting teaching salaries, and evaluate teachers on the knowledge and skills they possess rather than simply on the degree they hold.
  • Because many new teachers feel underprepared for the classroom, a new system of preparation could require teachers to have a degree in a particular subject area rather than an undergraduate degree in education that does not endow them with a particular subject-matter expertise.
  • New placement strategies could create connections between universities and local districts that channel teachers into the school system more fluidly. These relationships would encourage institutional accountability for those that train teachers and develop pipelines for prep-to-placement.
  • By providing training for new teachers, evaluating teacher progress on more than just achievement scores and providing information about each school before employment, increased retention will minimize the turnover that harms the lowest-achieving schools most.
  • New teachers should be offered opportunities to expand their career outside of the classroom, receive compensation based on performance, and expand their knowledge base through job-embedded training and development.
  • The current accountability-based system must be reformed to account for multiple indicators of teacher success, examine a school's organizational capacity for improvement, hold higher education institutions accountable for the education they provide and incentivize student learning.

The recommendations in Knowles' report, if implemented, would be the first step toward ensuring that the way we have traditionally groomed teachers will change. If student outcomes are to improve, we must improve the quality of teachers. To do this requires a systematic and philosophical change in the manner in which we educate, train, recruit, evaluate, compensate and support our teachers.

Source: Timothy Knowles, "New Pathways for Teachers, New Promises for Students:  A Vision for Developing Excellent Teachers," American Enterprise Institute, January 2013.

 

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