Alex Tabarrock: Industry of Mediocrity

Alex on the new report from the National Council on Teacher Quality – not good news: 

AP: Washington: The nation’s teacher-training programs do not adequately prepare would-be educators for the classroom, even as they produce almost triple the number of graduates needed, according to a survey of more than 1,000 programs released Tuesday.

The National Council on Teacher Quality review is a scathing assessment of colleges’ education programs and their admission standards, training and value.

Not surprisingly the report is being criticized by the teacher’s unions who complain that evaluators “did not visit programs or interview students or schools that hired graduates.” Most of the teacher’s colleges, however, refused to cooperate with the evaluators with some even instructing their students not to cooperate. Do you think the non-cooperators were of better quality than the programs that did cooperate?

According to the report, “some 239,000 teachers are trained each year and 98,000 are hired” suggesting a poor return for the potential teachers. One wonders about the quality of the teachers not hired.

In any case, the report is consistent with a wide body of research that shows teacher quality is not high and has declined over time, see Launching the Innovation Renaissance for details.

Meanwhile, on the every cloud has a silver lining front, Neerav Kingsland, Chief Strategy Officer for the important non-profit New Schools for New Orleans argues that the great stagnation will increase the supply of high-quality teachers:

Unfortunately, international trade and technology will continue to eliminate middle-class jobs. Personally, I’m worried that our political system will not adequately ease the pain of this transition. However, this economic upheaval will increase the quality of human capital available to schools. The education sector will likely capture some of this talent surplus, so long as schools are well managed. Moreover, if tech progress reduces the amount of educators we need, we may be in a situation where we have both (a) higher quality applicant pools and (b) less education jobs. I do not view the hollowing out of middle-class jobs as a positive economic development, but it will positively affect education labor…

3 thoughts on “Alex Tabarrock: Industry of Mediocrity

  1. Do we even know the best way to train teachers? If so, do all teacher training schools use the best training methods?

    Have we ever studied the methods used by teachers who are producing the best results?

    When teachers are not producing good results, are they given coaching so that they can improve their methods? Does the coaching work?

    Do poor students require different teaching methods? If so, are we using those methods for poor students?

    • There is a lot of good research on what works. Sources include Students First, and Teach for America.

      The answer to your questions in general is we know better approaches, though no concept of “best answer”. But no way to even experiment in 99.99% existing public schools.

      Most important issue, highest leverage — more than energy policy.

  2. There must be some reason that our schools here in the U.S., except for tertiary schools, tend to be mediocre when compared with the schools in Norway and other countries where schools get better results. According to what I’ve read, Norway’s schools were also once mediocre, but Norway worked diligently to turn them around and was highly successful in doing so. We should be able to do the same.

    There are a few teachers here who, in spite of teaching students from poor families in poverty stricken areas, get good results. One would suppose that diligent teachers with proper training could duplicate those results. I don’t believe that making improvements is simply a matter of firing ineffective teachers; their ineffectiveness could be the result of inadequate training and coaching which is a situation which could be corrected.

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