Teacher Preparation

What’s New in International Comparisons?

By Liana Loewus — March 16, 2011 2 min read
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Two reports released today in conjunction with the International Summit on the Teaching Profession in New York highlight the lessons the United States can take from other countries’ reform efforts.

The United States should make teaching more attractive by raising the status of the profession, write Andreas Schleicher, the director of education for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and Steven L. Paine, a vice president at CTB/McGraw-Hill and a former West Virginia schools superintendent. And like other high-performing OECD countries, they write, the U.S. should invest in preparing high-quality teachers, establish common educational standards (as it’s on the way to doing with the common-core movement), and develop effective school leaders.

That report, titled “What the U.S. Can Learn From the World’s Most Successful Education Reform Efforts,” emphasizes that PISA scores are not a reflection of spending. “Only Luxembourg spends more money per capita on its students than the U.S., both persistently less-than-stellar performers, and U.S. spending patterns vary widely from those of more successful education countries.” The United States is one of only four OECD countries that spend less per student at economically disadvantaged schools than at more-affluent schools, the report states.

A second report, from the Alliance for Excellent Education and the Stanford Center for Opportunity Policy in Education, looks to Finland, Singapore, and Ontario, Canada, for “lessons” and comes away with some of the same conclusions.

Those three high-performing jurisdictions get “the right people” into teaching and prepare them well, make the profession attractive, provide ongoing teacher support, and develop high-quality leadership, according to Linda Darling-Hammond, a Stanford University professor and co-director of the center, and Robert Rothman, a senior fellow at the alliance, who edited “Teacher and Leader Effectiveness: Lessons Learned From High-Performing Education Systems.”

International comparisons are becoming plentiful. (See previous Education Week coverage of PISA results and McKinsey & Co. reports on global reform efforts and teacher recruiting.) So what’s new here? As of now, it’s hard to tell. But I’ll be headed to New York tomorrow to catch the bit of the summit that’s open to the news media. The U.S. Department of Education, which is convening the summit, says it has invited education ministers from around the world, teachers, union leaders, and members of the Council of Chief State School Officers.

Here’s what I’m hoping to find out:

  • What exactly does it mean to “raise the status of the profession?” What does that look like in practice? Have other countries been successful in doing this?

  • How far does increasing teacher pay go toward raising the profession’s status? Is that a good place to start?

  • Can these sorts of “lessons” be implemented at the federal level? Or are they meant to be heeded by individual states?

  • How can the U.S. reallocate spending to be more in line with the highest-performing countries?

  • Will efforts to limit teachers’ collective bargaining rights, such as those in Wisconsin and Idaho, affect America’s ability to elevate the profession?

What else would you like these international education leaders to comment on?

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.