Calculate the ratio of how many school graduates love thinking, to the total number of graduates, and that will give you the ratio of good teachers to the total number of teachers (within 16 % margin).
This is why we really need to reform the way education has been reforming so far (for the last 30 years).
Dr. Valentin Voroshilov
Education Advancement Professionals
Education reform needs a new paradigm.
Yes, there has to be a way to weed out teachers who cannot teach.
Let’s stop a debate for a moment and close our eyes and try to imagine how would teachers teach and students learn 50 years from now. And then looking from the future let’s try to find a way to get to it from where we are now.
First, we would not see in classrooms many math or physics teachers instructing students how to solve problems. Nowadays computers already can play a game of chess, beat a Chess world champion, beat a GO world champion, win the Jeopardy, and take SAT tests (Don't believe? Just Google!).
This is because such games as chess and Jeopardy, and such subjects as math and physics are highly structured; they have a very strict logic and a well-established set of rules and choices which can be enumerated and tested out one by one (computers are very good at this kind of work).
Soon enough (I expect in about two decades) robots will learn how to solve math and physics problems and then how to teach how to solve math and physics problems. So, STEM teachers will not be needed any more in the same way as they are needed now - i.e to drill students.
A similar fate and because of the similar reasons awaits for teachers teaching reading.
In general, every skill which can be automated, will also be able to be taught by an automat, hence will be automated (but the real human-level AI is not coming any soon.)
Teachers will become more like directors, tutors, conductors, motivational speakers - a.k.a. facilitators.
But until this time has come, every skill which has to be learned by our students has to be taught by our teachers. So, today teachers have to facilitators and content experts.
So far, and in the foreseeable future, textbooks do not teach students, tablets do not teach students, buildings do not teach students, standards do not teach students – teachers do.
If we want better learning outcomes from our students – we need better-teaching teachers in our schools (biological or artificial - no matter).
Of course, even the best teacher in the world is limited by the conditions he or she has to work into; but if a perfect school building with perfect textbooks and computers and general infrastructure is filled up with poorly prepared teachers, students are doomed to be mediocre (and in this is the biggest threat for the future economy and the future of the country).
This is why all reformers of all ranks always state that they want to attract to their schools or districts the best teachers from all over the country.
And that pool is not very large.
And this is why only one charter school out of five shows some improvement over public schools around (despite the fact that almost all charter schools have some extra resources, which regular public schools do not have). Because that one out of five charter schools gets the best teachers, and all other schools – charter or public – have to employ the rest.
Instead of competing for the same teachers, schools, officials, politicians have to start working on preparing as many good teachers as possible.
This is why I write in my book “Becoming a STEM Teacher: a Crash Course for People Entering the Profession”: “The key problem of contemporary education is not an insufficient teaching, it is an insufficient teacher preparation. Effective, productive, sufficient teacher preparation will result in effective, productive, sufficient teaching.”
Nowadays, the U.S., or even individual states, have NO effective SYSTEM for teacher professional development. If it would have existed, schools would have many more good teachers, and we would not be discussing this issue, because it would not exist (just an example of the use of a scientific thinking).
Teacher preparation is essentially no different from how a "tough" parent teaches a kid how to swim (you know how). Many ed schools issue many degrees in "education leadership", but not many of them teach teachers their subject and how to teach that subject (many ed school instructors and reformers do not know who to do it)."Education leadership" is no more than a training on how to be leader in a field of education. Being a leader is a part of ANY good management, not specific to education. There is no need to have a degree in that. "Education" part means that a manager has to know specific legal/administrative aspects of management. That requires having a good legal consul rather than a PhD. A good manager in education must know first and foremost what does it mean to be a good teacher. This is the crucial, central, most important part of
"education leadership", and that part is most often omitted from the training.
Of course an insufficient teacher preparation is not the only problem, but is has to be seen as the central problem of education reform (even more important than having sufficient funding and exceptional school principals).
OK, let’s assume we all agree on that. What do we do about it?
First, we do not need to spend any money any more to study what is the difference between a good teacher and a not so good teacher. We do not need spend any money anymore on "inventing" some overarching ideas on how to improve education.
Instead we should use money (and money taken from many other unnecessary “research”) to “make” more good teachers. And to do that we have to reform the system of teacher professional development.
We have to give money to teachers – partly as an addition to a wage, partly as a stipend for professional development, and say: “Please, do the best you can and teach our children, and to grow professionally every day of your work. But, please, keep in mind, that we are also watching you, and at the end of every year we will publicly inform everyone in the world about the results of your work”.
“Imagine what a strong motivation to do the best he/she can would a teacher have if at the end of every year everyone could see how his/her students performed comparing to the rest of the country!” (another quote from my book).
We need to separate from each other two important professional actions:
Of course, these two sides of a profession are tightly connected. But the first part – measuring – has to be regular and continuous; the second part should be delayed, because every teacher needs to have a chance to grow up professionally, and as long as we see the progress, we should give a teacher an opportunity to work.
With the money teachers can use for their professional development, and with the public attention to the results of their work, teachers will become active consumers on the market of professional development. When teacher professional development programs will be financed by teachers, eventually, only those of the programs which really help teachers to succeed will remain on the market.
The government should help teachers to openly share the information about which professional development program actually helped them to teach better, and which didn’t.
The role of the government is to create efficient system for collecting data on the quality of teaching embedded into the everyday teaching practices of teachers. All the data should be clearly and openly available to public. Internal professional evaluation should remain as a part of the system, and may change in time, but should not be the focus of administrators or officials.
BTW: in 2016 I offered the Massachusetts Department of Education a project with the goal of the development of a website where teachers could give a standardized feedback on a teacher professional events they have attended for their PDPs. It's actually would not be too complicated to do. First of all, every PDP provider would have been assigned an ID, and then teachers could have been leaving their systematized feedback on each PDP provider, and teachers could search providers based on feedback and overall ranking. The Department's response was "We have no interests" (this post offers more details).
All true professionals share the same five top qualities: curiosity, vision, ability to reason, ability to laugh at themselves, and strict criteria of the own professional job.
A professional teacher has the sixth – the love of learning.
One of the most efficient approaches is called “Professional Designing”.
I understand that what I described above is not yet a plan for a reform, or not even a draft of a plan (more details are in the book).
From my point of view, this idea plays a role of a litmus test; it divides people into two groups, the ones who stick to the “charter schools and merit pay” vs. “job security and need more resources” debate, and the others who are looking beyond it.
The current parading of the reformers, which is: “We have to force all teachers to teach good, and those who cannot - have to be fired”, has to be replaced with a new one, which is: “We have to give resources to teachers and a freedom to use those resources for continuous professional growth, but make comparable and public results of their work”.
How is the new paradigm related to the distant future when robots will teach as good as people can (at least in STEM education)?
Well, when technology is ready, the weakest teachers will gradually be replaced by those robots (of course, this is only one of many possible scenarios).
After a decade of making a transition from "traditional" ways of teaching mathematics to "learn math via discovery" Canada wants to go back.
"Canadian students’ math skills have been on a decade-long decline because rote learning was replaced by discovery-based methods that promoted multiple strategies and estimations, according to a new report that calls for a return to tradition."
This is what happens when Ideology wins over Reason - this time in education.
P.P.P.P.S Another set of arguments is available here
from the latter piece:
"In Finland, students spend around 600 hours/year in a relaxed environment, calling their professors by their first name and incorporating the arts into every subject. Finnish schools offer flexible schedules to cater to the students’ learning pace and sleeping habits."
Dr. Valentin Voroshilov
Education Advancement Professionals
The voices of my students
"The Backpack Full of Cash": pointing at a problem, not offering a solution
Essentials of Teaching Science
as a human practice is to ensure the progress of humanity.
The goal of educational institutions