The Best Teachers in the World: Why We Don't Have Them and How We Could

Also from ES | November 9, 2012
The Best Teachers in the World: Why We Don't Have Them and How We Could Cover

Public schools face the challenge of educating large numbers of students for whom learning does not come easily. They are institutions with long-established practices, often protected by politics and therefore highly resistant to change. The Best Teachers in the World explains why changing our traditional approach to improving our schools is critical and tells how to achieve such change. John Chubb shows how we can raise student achievement to levels comparable to those of the best nations in the world through a new strategy for raising teacher quality that is very different from the approach our country has historically followed. He asserts that we must attract and retain high-caliber individuals to teaching, train teachers in institutions and programs that can demonstrate their efficacy in producing teachers who raise student achievement, and improve the quality of school leadership.

Chubb suggests moving beyond licensing and other regulatory approaches to teacher quality to focus on providing quality by measuring performance directly-including direct measurement of both teacher effectiveness and training effectiveness-with the success of each gauged by the ability of participants subsequently to raise student achievement. Given strong incentives to perform and the information to do so, he shows, the American educational system can improve teacher training and raise teacher quality to the highest levels in the world.

Book Reviews

"In 135 pages (not including a swell foreword by Benno Schmidt), John Chubb does a fine job of examining key barriers to teacher quality in American public education and suggesting three big strategies for overcoming them. He unpacks 1) the potential of technology to augment the teacher arsenal (by reducing the total number of flesh-and-blood teachers that the system needs and thus advancing selectivity and compensation); 2) teacher preparation and the enforcement of quality and effectiveness in that domain, primarily via information and market forces; and 3) how to empower principals to staff their schools with individuals best suited to meeting the instructional needs and priorities of those schools. This paragraph gives you the flavor:

In exchange for the freedom, schools, and, especially, school leaders must be held strictly to account for student programs. That is the bargain that professionals should want—autonomy to control their work fully, to be compensated for it fairly, and to accept responsibility for its results. This is a very different arrangement than the one that has long governed education—and that now impedes the improvement of teacher quality. Policymakers need to take a fundamentally different approach. Teacher quality cannot be prescribed.

Chubb is exceptionally qualified to author this book. Currently acting chief of Education Sector, a policy think tank, he formerly spent seventeen years with EdisonLearning, where he served as chief education officer. Then there’s his distinguished career in political science, education policy, and international-education consulting. Reformers should take this book seriously, particularly because it comes at teacher quality from a very different direction than the “top down” schemes that most are now pursuing—with the best of intentions, of course, but with little to show for their efforts." –Chester E. Finn, Jr., Thomas B. Fordham Institute

"And the dapper John Chubb, CEO of Education Sector, has penned The Best Teachers in the World: Why We Don't Have Them and How We Could. John pushes past the tedious conventions of today's "teacher quality" debates, with their relentless focus on better evaluating how well teachers do a 19th century job in 19th century classrooms. He argues that it's vital to use technology to rethink classrooms and extend the reach of terrific teachers. He contends that training should shift away from ed schools to any provider that can demonstrate evidence that it is producing teachers who raise student achievement (I'm fine with the first half of this recipe, but have some serious qualms about reifying value-added scores the way he does here.) And he calls for empowering principals to do much more when it comes to hiring, training, and compensating teachers, so that they can recruit, support, and recognize excellence. Love or hate what John has to say, he's penned a quick read that's sure to spark sharp debate and fresh thinking." –Rick Hess, Education Week

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