To Improve Teaching, Support Educators

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To the Editor:

“[T]raining teachers may be cash cows for some schools of education,” write Linda Katz and Andrew Belton in their recent Commentary (“Averting a Human-Capital Train Wreck,” Dec. 8, 2010). Well, and why not? Are we really supposed to believe that the American K-12 education system would improve if these schools operated at a loss, or if they tweaked their admissions criteria? I, for one, do not; and I do not think the state has any business interfering (at the admissions level, anyway) with the market realities of supply and demand.

As for the idea that we can improve the quality (however measured) or retention of schoolteachers by making education-school admission more exclusive, this seems a classic case of wagging the dog by the tail. Were our nation’s elementary, middle, and high schools generally healthy and rewarding places to work, we would probably be spared the ill effects—“some real, many imagined”—of school teachers’ having earned, on balance, lower grade point averages and test scores in high school and college than doctors and engineers.

Look at the Center for High Impact Philanthropy report that Ms. Katz and Mr. Belton cite, and you’ll see that 50 percent of teacher turnover is due to dissatisfaction with the job. “Even the most skilled teachers cannot fulfill their potential in the poor environments in which many teachers work today,” the report states.

If there really is a human-capital train wreck in the offing, states (and philanthropists) might want to look at what they can do to guarantee teachers some of the dignity and autonomy that similarly well-educated white-collar workers in other fields take for granted.

Joshua Roth
Arlington, Mass.

Vol. 30, Issue 15, Page 31

Published in Print: January 12, 2011, as To Improve Teaching, Support Educators
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