Why We Need to Teach Teachers Better

Should we train teachers the way we train doctors?

(Image: iStock.com/pixdeluxe)

At The New York Times Higher Ed Leaders Forum two weeks ago, I spoke with Pasi Sahlberg, best-selling author of Finnish Lessons, and visiting professor of Practice in Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

During our interview, I asked Sahlberg about the U.S. education system, among many other things, and he told me that we “need to train teachers like we train doctors and lawyers.”

Apparently, Sahlberg isn’t the only one who feels that way.

In today’s Times, the article “Train Teachers Like Doctors” describes teaching residencies as a way teachers could benefit from the rigorous training and methods used to train physicians.

Co-teaching residencies

Yearlong co-teaching residencies, where candidates work alongside an accomplished teacher while studying child development and teaching methods.

Educators would be paid as teaching assistants and could participate fully in the teaching responsibilities.

The article states another huge advantage to the residency model: “Unlike other new teachers, residency graduates overwhelmingly stay in the profession. Upward of 90%—including graduates from large programs such as Arizona State University in Tempe—remain in the profession after their early years, while nearly half of other new teachers leave. This means that even if residency-trained teachers merely performed as well as their counterparts, the reduced turnover would save millions.”

Better Teachers, More Students Learning

There isn’t a lot of evidence, but evaluations of small programs like the New Visions partnership with Hunter College in New York City show that teacher residency graduates are better at promoting student learning than other new teachers.

Here’s an excerpt of the article:

While top-tier independent schools, some of the most celebrated charter school networks like Aspire and a handful of innovative school districts like Boston and Washington, D.C., have established teacher-residency programs, these are the exceptions. In most public schools, residency programs are not an option because we have not dedicated the necessary financial resources.

Public funding in other countries—including Germany, Finland, Japan, and Singapore—ensures that their educators get such training. In the United States, though, only a few lucky candidates find programs with philanthropic or grant subsidies that offer a stipend so that they can afford to live while learning their craft. These financial supports allow them to focus fully on developing the skills they need to become successful teachers.

To read more, go here.

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