NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 7, 2004

A decade of studies on educational reform has led to the conclusion that a lack of good teachers is the main factor behind failing public schools.

Poor teaching keeps low-performing schools in a rut, while students assigned highly effective teachers three years in a row will see their ranking based on test scores more than double, according to several studies based in Tennessee.

To improve teaching, USA Today recommends the following:

  • Tie pay to performance by linking salaries and bonuses to student achievement and improvement, not the number of years a teacher has been at a school.
  • Retain good teachers in poor-performing schools by paying bonuses and tuition for continuing education.
  • Recruit non-traditional teachers who might lack a teaching degree but are knowledgeable in a field and can bring enthusiasm and idealism to the classroom.
  • Improve teacher colleges to help the next crop of teachers learn the most effective classroom practices.

Teach for America (TFA) is one organization that is sending non-traditional teachers to schools in low-performing urban and rural districts, with great success. TFA teachers attend summer training programs before starting in the classroom, and students in TFA-led classrooms often do better in math than those assigned to traditional teachers.

Certainly, U.S. schools have thousands of dedicated and highly qualified teachers, but far too few of them work where they are in critical need: the poorest and most challenging schools.

Teach for America and other innovative programs are trailblazing paths to find those good teachers. Now, the nation's school districts need to muster the will to follow, says USA Today.

Source: Editorial, "New ideas in teaching yield dramatic results," USA TODAY, June 28, 2004.

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