Incentive is one of the key ingredients to obtaining great teachers…according to the preliminary findings from a study being conducted at Stanford. There are some teachers that have their own inner voice driving them to become the best in their field, but others are leaving the profession or coasting through it due to a lack of support, a lack of direction and a lack of training.
Not long ago the NCEE’s Center on International Education Benchmarking issued a grant to Linda Darling-Hammond at Stanford University to head a very large study, an international comparative study of teacher quality policies and practices. Darling-Hammond and a team of researchers from all over the world took a sampling of countries that ranked high on the OECD PISA assessments.
One aspect of the research looked at how these schools organized and managed to support high-quality teachers and teaching methods in schools from Australia, Singapore, Finland, Shanghai and Canada.
What are some of the common key elements? From the beginning, new teachers receive plenty of support from expert teachers to help them learn and grow, but it doesn’t end there. Unlike most teachers here in the US, these teachers don’t peak after 3 years on the job, they continue to improve and develop within a supportive and nurturing system.
It should be noted that this may not be achievable if schools don’t hire the top percentile of graduates, something other studies indicate is a contributing factor to better performing teachers. Countries like Finland only hire teachers that graduated in the top 10% of their class. Should we hire anyone less qualified if we we expect to have the best educational system in the world?
Not only have they looked at factors associated with teacher recruitment, preparation, retention, and professional learning, but also the structure of teaching, the curriculum and assessment policies. They are looking at the school organization and how it influences working conditions and utilizes teacher’s time. They are also researching various parameters of school funding, and how it shapes the compensation and resources available to teachers.
The research will examine the implications of these policies on the skills developed, tools regularly available and stability for teachers. Other prominent aspects of the study are looking at the equity of the distribution of teaching talent and the learning opportunities within the classroom between the student and teacher.
“The goal is to really understand how a nation and a state or province within, organizes all of the aspects of the teaching profession, recruitment, preparation, professional learning, compensation, evaluation. How it organizes the work of teaching: the relationship between teachers and students that is how the school is organized, …time for collaboration, specialization that teachers may experience both in their training and in their teaching, and to do that within the teaching policy system.” according to Linda Darling-Hammond.
What these nations do and how they interact within the social context is the key to understanding how we can achieve a higher quality of teachers and educational system. This study when it is completed will have a profound effect on the structure of our educational system…if we chose to use it. While other countries are realizing the importance of education in nation building, our children may be left behind if we don’t change our current crippled system.