The latest article on how to fix the American public school system comes from Elizabeth Green
in this week's New York Times Magazine. Green looks at the specific
techniques of successful teachers, and how they can be taught. But not
all are convinced teacher training is the way to success. Here's the
expanded list of recent ideas on the table. How do we fix American
- Better Teacher Training Elizabeth Green digs into Doug Lemov's study for what makes a good
teacher. Lemov, apparently, "noticed something about most successful
teachers that he hadn't expected to find: what looked like natural-born
genius was often deliberate technique in disguise," and it turns out
good teachers all tend to use similar techniques. Green doesn't mean to
oversimplify: good teaching is a complicated combination of factors,
including subject knowledge and teaching-specific skills. In other
words, "It's one thing to know that 307 minus 168 equals 139; it is
another thing to be able understand why a third grader might think that
261 is the right answer." But Green and her interviewees make the case
that better training for teachers is necessary--simply firing the bad ones
won't do it.
- Better Teacher Hiring An Atlantic piece by Amanda Ripley,
looking at a Teach for America investigation, offers different
conclusions. "Great teachers... constantly reevaluate what they are
doing," and share "four other tendencies ... They avidly recruited
students and their families into the process; they maintained focus,
ensuring that everything they did contributed to student learning; they
planned exhaustively and purposefully... and they worked
relentlessly, refusing to surrender to the combined menaces of poverty,
bureaucracy, and budgetary shortfalls." Ripley acknowledges it's tricky
to "screen for a relentless mind-set" when hiring, but says that "if
school systems hired, trained, and rewarded teachers according to the
principles Teach for America has identified... they would be operating
in a system... designed... for success."
- Better Discipline Blogger Steve Sailer,
responding to Green's New York Times Magazine piece, thinks the
classroom management and attention-holding problems Green
describes--which she says can be solved by better training--are
perhaps just a matter of classroom discipline. He suspects teachers
need more "institutional support" here.
- Deal with Decentralization The Atlantic's Derek Thompson
talks about the success of Singapore's educational system, but realizes
the same approach might not work here. He suggests the U.S.'s highly
decentralized system may be a barrier to successful reform of any
- Listen to the Parents At Salon, Mary Elizabeth Williams is uneasy at the recent spate of teacher firings accompanying President Obama's Race to the Top. "For every crappy tenured teacher phoning it in right now, there are
others fighting for their careers and their reputations within a system
that is frankly gunning for them. As my school's parent association
president put it recently, 'Parents can complain about teachers, but we
can't save them.'"
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