Marc Tucker on Professionalizing Teaching

Recently in Marc Tucker’s blog for the National Center on Education and the Economy, he explored the concept of professionalizing teaching, claiming that it requires an occupational overhaul, not just salary increases for the same occupation. Excerpts of the piece appear below:

It costs no more to run a high-performance education system that produces high achievement and high equity than it does to run a low-performance system that produces low average achievement and low equity, like the one we have in the United States.  The essential ingredients are very high quality teachers and forms of work organization that are designed to make the best use of high quality teachers.

But that will force some tough choices.

What the record shows is that teachers with a better command of the subject they teach, better training in the craft of teaching, more support, better leadership, more opportunity to work together to improve the curriculum and instruction and more opportunities and stronger incentives to get better and better at the work can do a much better job than teachers for whom these things are not true.

It is also true that they can do a much better job for their students under such conditions than the typical American teacher even when the ratio of teachers to students is lower and there are fewer teachers’ aides and non-teaching personnel in the classroom.  Fewer, better teachers treated like real professionals are more effective than more teachers who are treated like blue collar workers. There is abundant evidence for that proposition.

But we cannot have it both ways.  There is not enough money in any nation’s coffers to afford to mandate both high compensation and reduced teaching load and, at the same time, very small class sizes and a school staff that is twice the size of the professional teaching staff. Put another way, no nation can afford to pay for the most expensive features of both the blue-collar, industrial age model and the modern, professional model.

This has worked in Massachusetts, where many elements of the new model are in place, and in several provinces in Canada.  It can work in your state, too.

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