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Symposium 2012

Proposal - Keep good teachers and eliminate bad teachers

The Challenge

Education is a fundamental right for everyone and key to the future of any country. Education has its price everywhere—but the only thing more expensive than investing in education is not investing ...

Education is a fundamental right for everyone and key to the future of any country. Education has its price everywhere—but the only thing more expensive than investing in education is not investing in education. Inadequate education produces high costs for society in terms of public spending, crime, health, and economic growth. No country can afford to leave too many of its children behind and not to help them achieve the competencies needed for a self-fulfilled life in economic independence.

All available research shows that the quality of the teacher is the most important ingredient of the school to student achievement. The difference in effectiveness between teachers can spell the difference between success in education and dropping out of school. There is, however, no simple description of what makes a good teacher and of how to develop a good teacher. Thus, teacher policy should stress evaluation of teachers and incentives for performance (including firing of ineffective teachers). Good policy should also step back from regulations on who can enter teaching and how teachers are prepared. Similar policies must also be developed for school administrators.

Details

  1. Traditional measures of teacher quality including pre-service education and training, advanced degrees, and experience are not closely related with effectiveness in the classroom. Except for improvements during the first couple of years of teaching, none of these characteristics of teachers has been shown to predict performance very well in either developed or developing countries.
  2. Rigidities built into the teaching profession – by unions, labor laws, and custom – operate to keep ineffective teachers to the detriment of students.
  3. Because we cannot specify the characteristics and background of effective versus ineffective teachers, we cannot adequately regulate who enters teaching and what their training should be.
  4. Strong incentive systems (described in a separate proposal) are key to improving teacher and administrator quality.
  5. All of statements about teachers hold equally for administrators, and any incentives must be relevant to both.

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