How Do You Make a Good Teacher?
Check out this headline, from the Center for Michigan:
What's your first thought?
- Good! This will eliminate the plague of academic dim bulbs inhabiting our classrooms!
- Clearly, Michigan will have a better teaching force a few years from now.
- Makes sense--only someone with questionable abilities and low aspirations would think seriously about pursuing teaching anyway.
If that's what popped into your head, you're thinking like the editorial staff at the Center (a non-partisan, centrist think tank), whose op-ed commentary made clear that raising the standardized bar was their preferred, one-stop solution for making better teachers.
If only it were so simple.
My first thought was this: Where is the convincing evidence that the old Michigan Teacher Exam (which had a year-to-year pass rate hovering around 80%) did not screen out the folks who should not become teachers? Is there confirmation that we were pushing these unqualified teachers into the classroom, harming children with their lack of brainpower? Where is the convincing evidence that a test--even a tough new test like Michigan's Professional Readiness Exam--is the best or most efficient means of identifying strong candidates for teaching?
Is this truly about making more effective, more professional teachers? Is it about workforce supply and demand? Or is it another way to point fingers at the colleges and universities that prepare graduates for the classroom, to shift blame? Read the headline again.
I once attended a State Board of Ed meeting where cut scores for the statewide standardized test (the "MEAP") were established, and it cured me forever of the belief that any test can precisely