Today, a new report was released on how to grow and keep good teachers, looking at the comprehensive efforts in three high-achieving places, Finland, Singapore and Ontario. The release coincides with the International Summit on the Teaching Profession, hosted by the U.S. Department of Education in New York today and tomorrow.
The report is the work of Robert Rothman, a senior policy fellow at the Alliance for Excellent Education, and Linda Darling-Hammond, education professor at Stanford University, where she launched the Stanford Educational Leadership Institute, SCOPE, and the School Redesign Network.
Here are some of their observations about what these three places do right:
In each jurisdiction, entry into teacher education programs is extremely selective. Finland chooses one out of every 10 individuals who apply to become primary school teachers; Singapore has traditionally chosen participants from the top third of high school classes (the nation is now moving rapidly toward graduate-level preparation); and in Ontario, where graduate-level preparation is also the norm, the process is highly competitive. In that way, each jurisdiction helps ensure that highly capable people go into teaching.
Finland, Ontario, and Singapore not only recruit able candidates, they also screen them carefully to ensure that they have the attributes that make teachers effective—including commitment to the profession and evidence of the capacity to work well with children, as well as academic ability. In Finland, for example, the two-stage process first looks for top academic honors and then examines students’ understanding of teaching—through both a written exam on pedagogy and their participation in a clinical activity that replicates a school situation and demonstrates social interaction and communication skills as well as teaching attitudes and behaviors
Finland, for example, has sought since 1979 to invest intensely in the initial preparation of teachers. That year, the country required all teachers, including those teaching in the primary grades, to earn at least a master’s degree in education, in addition to a bachelor’s degree in one or more content areas. To complement the powerful initial preparation, Finland then provides teachers with considerable support—primarily time to collaborate with their peers to develop curricula and assessments—and considerable autonomy.
While new teachers in Singapore are paid nearly as well as doctors entering government service, Finland’s teachers—among the most admired professionals in the country—earn about the average Finnish salary, the equivalent to the average of mid-career teachers in industrialized nations ($41,000 in U.S. dollars in 2010).6 Salaries in Ontario range from $37,000 to $90,000, comparable to those in the United States.
Yet each jurisdiction has developed and implemented policies that make teaching attractive, and these efforts clearly have paid off. Support for teaching and teachers in these jurisdictions comes straight from the top. Leaders have frequently expressed their belief that teachers are vital, and this has helped raise the status of the profession. In 1966, just after Singapore declared independence, then Minister of Education, Ong Pang Boon, stated that ―the future of every one of us in Singapore is to a large extent determined by what our teachers do in the classroom.‖ Forty years later, in 2006, the nation’s prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, observed, ― “Just as a country is as good as its people, so its citizens are only as good as their teachers.”
Singaporean teachers have about twenty hours a week built into their schedule for shared planning and learning, as well as one hundred hours per year of state-supported professional development outside of their school time. Furthermore, Singapore’s performance management system is designed explicitly to link to professional development and provide growth opportunities for effective teachers. All teacher and leadership training is at government expense. How far teachers advance depends on their interests and the competencies they can demonstrate, through an extensive evaluation system.
Finland, meanwhile, provides opportunities for teachers to develop their practice. Finland’s teachers have relatively light teaching loads—Finnish high school teachers teach about half the number of hours U.S. high school teachers teach—and thus teachers there have ample time to collaborate with one another to develop and hone lessons and study the latest research. Ontario’s annual evaluation system for teachers is designed for professional growth. As part of the system, teachers must complete the Annual Learning Plan, which outlines growth goals for the year.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog