classroom 2According to Arthur Levine of Columbia Teachers College, there are 1,300 schools of edu­ca­tion and no more than half are accred­it­ed.  When the aca­d­e­m­ic suc­cess of our stu­dents depends on the qual­i­ty of their teach­ers, we must exam­ine this star­tling sta­tis­tic. In fact, when it comes to improv­ing stu­dent achieve­ment, there’s no sub­sti­tute for an effec­tive teacher — not class size, tech­nol­o­gy, high­er stan­dards or bet­ter tests. Education Secretary Arne Duncan argues that unless the United States improves teacher train­ing and rais­es teacher qual­i­ty, lit­tle will change in the class­room.  Duncan has been lead­ing the charge with a series of speech­es call­ing for edu­ca­tion schools to rein­vent them­selves.  Duncan told an audi­ence at Columbia University that “by almost any stan­dard, many if not most of the nation’s schools, col­leges and depart­ments of edu­ca­tion are doing a mediocre job of prepar­ing teach­ers for the real­i­ties of the 21st cen­tu­ry class­room.”

It is impos­si­ble in many states to iden­ti­fy which teach­ers pro­duce the best stu­dent out­comes, let alone which teacher col­leges.  David Steiner, New York’s edu­ca­tion com­mis­sion­er, rais­es the ques­tion, “what good are teach­ers’ cre­den­tials if we can’t tell how much their stu­dents are learn­ing?”  We sim­ply must cre­ate mod­els where stu­dent test scores can be traced back to their teach­ers and ulti­mate­ly to the teach­ers’ place of learn­ing.

The University of Michigan is redesign­ing its school of edu­ca­tion to make earn­ing a teach­ing degree more like earn­ing a law or med­ical degree.  According to Professor Robert Bain, when the effort is fin­ished, the edu­ca­tion pro­gram will no longer be a series of cours­es stu­dents have to take but rather a pro­gram that’s build­ing on expe­ri­ences.

Harvard has intro­duced a new doc­tor­al degree in edu­ca­tion lead­er­ship.   In col­lab­o­ra­tion with fac­ul­ty mem­bers from the Harvard Business School and the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Harvard will offer stu­dents a tuition- free 3 year pro­gram to devel­op the skills to trans­form pub­lic edu­ca­tion in our coun­try.  The over­all goal, said Dean McCartney, is “to pro­duce a cadre of high­ly skilled edu­ca­tion­al lead­ers who are com­mit­ted to reform of the pro­fes­sion, knowl­edge­able about the way chil­dren learn and well-ground­ed in the real world of prac­ti­cal man­age­ment and pol­i­tics”.

Even in our own back­yard, UMKC has devel­oped a pro­gram specif­i­cal­ly designed to train teach­ers for urban school set­tings.  The entire cur­ricu­lum has been revamped to bring more diver­si­ty and cul­tur­al back­grounds into the learn­ing process.  Read more from the Kansas City Star here UMKCUrbanFocus[1] .

It will be years before grad­u­ates of these pro­grams have an impact on our chil­dren.  In the mean­time, we must con­tin­ue to ask how qual­i­fied our teach­ers are.  Do they have a proven track record of advanc­ing their stu­dents’ aca­d­e­m­ic progress?  Is there a high­ly qual­i­fied, cer­ti­fied and moti­vat­ed teacher in your child’s class­room?   More than any oth­er vari­able in education—more than schools or curriculum—teachers mat­ter!

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