Teaching Can Be a Profession by Joel Klein
According to Klein, many things in the education system need changing, including: "giving far more school choices to families, using technology to improve teaching and learning, adopting a knowledge-based curriculum and starting education before a child is 5 years old." However, most of all, Klein feels that professionalizing teaching would be his greatest concern if he could wave a wand and change anything. In order to professionalize teaching, Klein addresses:
- Choosing from the Best
- Removing the Seniority Distraction
- Radical Change
In regards to choosing from the best, Klein suggests several solutions. The first of these begins with better training for future teachers. Second is a new method for recruiting teachers. Instead of letting anyone be hired, we should be choosing from our top third of college graduates. Lastly, we must change how teachers are rewarded. Teachers vary in their performance, but they are not rewarded by performance. This leads us to the second point. Teachers are typically rewarded by seniority.
In regards to seniority, Klein suggests a very simple solution. He feels that we should ignore this distinction completely. Professionalizing teaching would include no longer awarding merit off of how long a teacher has been employed. Merit would come from the effectiveness of the teacher. This would benefit both teachers and students. According to Albert Shanker, we must professionalize teaching in order to preserve the reputation of our teachers and the education system. Skanker wrote these ideas over thirty years ago! Skanker's solutions include attracting the best students and developing a base of knowledge that will be ruled by a set of peer relationships. He also feels the need for a national examination for teachers that are similar to the entry exams required for lawyers and doctors. His plans would also include an apprenticeship to supervise and evaluate the performance of prospective teachers for one to three years.
In regards to radical change, Shanker goes even further than the previous ideas. In order to protect the profession, teachers should form boards to enforce standards and as a way to remove ineffective or incompetent teachers. Teachers would also be merited and promoted through these specialty exams. There would be fewer teachers; however, they would have true mastery over their subjects. These teachers would be aided by college graduates who are teaching assistants. Lastly, education would no longer require students to be assigned to certain schools, but students would be given a greater choice among public schools.
As far as I can tell, so far I agree with all of these points made by these two men. As I said, I did not have much exposure before this article, but it has made me realize that I do need to pay attention to these issues. Professionalizing education is an absolute necessity. Teachers are no longer respected as they once were. I personally have been faced with so many people who believe I am crazy for choosing education as my profession. They do not think it is worth it and would not give it a minute of their day. They give the typical excuses of teachers not making enough money, the risk of being in a high school, and not having the patient to deal with students, but none of those things bother me. The students need to learn. We as teachers need to learn. Those who look down upon teaching need to learn! Teaching is every bit worth it, and we need to regain the respect that education deserves.
I believe that each of these three points is a problem that education in general is facing. We should definitely be choosing more carefully! This starts with better training, and better training starts with classes such as this one. Teachers must be in touch with students and how students will learn most effectively. The students deserve better than a second rate teacher. Choosing from the top graduates would be a great advantage to the students. If better training does become much more prominent, then maybe we would not have this need to only choose from the top tier of graduates. If all graduates come out much more in touch with what they should be doing and they can actually do it, then I feel that goal will have been more than covered. All of this should be focused on improving the students. Each student should be successful!
I also agree with removing the seniority distraction. When schools must cut back, the last hired are the first to go, and there are so many effective teachers that could get fired this way! The older teachers get to stay because they have been teaching longer, and the new teachers never even get a chance. This is a detriment to the students. All of these problems are not just teacher related problems, but they are problems that effect the future of children! Some things such as a national evaluation or national test might not go over so well with others and definitely have the potential to be very complicated to implement, but if that is what it takes for education to reestablish itself as a well-respected profession, then so be it.
Lastly, regarding these radical changes, my favorite idea is no longer requiring students to go to assigned public schools but allowing families to choose. I definitely could see problems with this, but it is one of the many subjects that the education system should address. I by no means am a solution guru, but I do recognize all of these as valid ideas that have the possibility to soar into greatness.
Education does need some kind of change, whether it is radical or simple. There are problems, and there are solutions. Many have been rolling around in people's minds for years, while others are quickly appearing. We all must consider them, bring them into our education philosophies, and stand for what we believe in.