How do we grow and retain the very best teachers?

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

82 comments Add your comment

Dr NO...

March 16th, 2011
10:35 am

To grow them we must plant them deeply in good soil then be sure they are provided lots of water, sunshine and a little Miracle Grow never hurts.

GA hates teachers

March 16th, 2011
10:38 am

Let Georgia’s teacher bashing begin…after all, that is what they do best.

Bash the teachers, bash the schools, bash the teachers some more (except for my school–it is perfect–well and the one down the street from me, it is perfect too). SMH

This state enjoys a good teacher-bashing. Let the games begin!

Springdale Park Elementary Parent

March 16th, 2011
10:54 am

I would be much more interested in reading about how first-tier countries develop their public-school principals, personnel managers and admin staff. I’ve had direct, sustained contact with folks in all quadrants of APS management, and as a group they are the least talented, least productive (but also by far the most arrogant) employees in the system–which surely puts them in the running for worst in the nation. (Keith Bromery is already dreaming up his press-release spin on that one: “APS leads the way yet again…”)

Their boss, Beverly Hall, will be remembered as presiding over the biggest cheating scandal in the history of standardized testing in the U.S., then further tarnishing her own diminished legacy by hiding evidence. We need to create a better pipeline for teachers, but here in Atlanta, we have bigger fish to fry right now. And we haven’t even talked about the giant self-inflicted wound that is our BOE….

APUSH Teach

March 16th, 2011
11:03 am

Common trends/themes amongst the countries: consistent financial support, dedication to professional development, and the elevated status of teachers within each country.

Unfortunately, this won’t happen anytime soon within the United States, and most definitely within Georgia. Even if we heightened the teacher-selection process to attract a plethora of incredible teachers, there’s not enough money and resources to pay them enough to stay for an extended period of time.

teacher&mom

March 16th, 2011
11:06 am

It is hard to find fault in the practices mentioned. Policy makers in the U.S. tend to take these ideas and implement them in a piecemeal fashion.

Here are some mistakes we make as a state and nation:

We fail to give teachers time to collaborate. (Read: The Way We Teach for a comparison between Germany, Japan, and the United States)

Failure to support them in professional growth. (GA has basically eliminated all professional growth for the next decade—a very bad idea that will have long-lasting effects)

Evaluations are weak and often used as a punitive tool….not a professional growth tool.

Failure to help teachers become reflective practitioners through “quick and easy” staff development, weak mentoring structures, etc.

Refusing to acknowledge National Board Certification and quality graduate programs as important tools to develop strong teachers.

Placing top candidates in the classroom is a great idea. However, if we fail to offer them substantial support and safe work conditions, we will continue to see high attrition rates.

Middle School Rocks

March 16th, 2011
11:10 am

These countries clearly have the right idea. There is a culture that enriches teaching and learning. At the same time, I bet they are also instilling the country’s value system at home. One of the biggest barriers we have to that is the fact that there is not one major value system or structure in America. There are as many as there are different cultures. One major function of the school system is to forward the nation’s value system. That seems impossible if there is not one. No one can agree on what to teach,m how to teach it, and what to do when students are unsuccessful. These countries all have that in order.

[...] More: How do we grow and retain the very best teachers? | Get Schooled [...]

GoStandInTheCorner

March 16th, 2011
12:25 pm

“…three high-achieving places, Finland, Singapore and Ontario.”

You are kidding, right? If our classrooms were full of Finish, Singaporean and Ontarian kids the growing and keeping of good teachers would be a piece of cake. Turn that around and tell teachers in those three locales that they face a career of trying to instruct the ghetto children we’re blessed with and they’d be fleeing in droves.

Pluto

March 16th, 2011
12:29 pm

This is not a phenomenon to only Georgia but the entire country. One tends to “feel” better about themselves when they can be one up on their counterpart so transplants to the state always think they know better. This country has a poor( to non-existent) legacy of educational excellence. We think about success as hitting homeruns and not singles. Winning the lottery or coming up with a BIG idea like a Bill Gates. Until we appreciate knowledge for its own sake I don’t care what state you are from we will continue to fall behind the leaders of the world.

just browsing

March 16th, 2011
12:38 pm

Springdale park parent- I love your witticisms! Keep it going!
Until they (all districts) evaluate the quality of their leadership, Georgia
will continue to run the best and brightest away. It is a given! Too much
rests on administrator’s mis-perception (often intentionally done).

Maureen Downey

March 16th, 2011
12:42 pm

@GoStand, I agree on Finland, but Canada has many poor immigrant families in Ontario: From a government site:

With 44% of Canada’s poor children, Ontario has become the child poverty centre of Canada, and there has been no measurable progress in the past five years.

Tony

March 16th, 2011
1:00 pm

When comparing salaries of US teachers to teachers of other countries, superficially it is easy to conclude that they are similar. What is not shown is the difference in health care and retirement benefits. Here, these are taken from teachers’ salaries. In many other places, they are not taken from the salary giving the teacher a higher take-home pay.

Keys to our future success in recruiting and retaining the very best include improving salaries, providing profressional development that is worthwhile for the teacher, providing adequate planning/preparation time, and supporting the teacher with appropriate disciplinary measures in place in the schools. In other words, we have a lot of work to do.

northern neighbor

March 16th, 2011
1:00 pm

I agree with Springdale Park Elementary Parent.
I like the teacher report as summarized and I would like to see the same style report for superintendents, principals, assistant principals and school board members.
No organization is any better than its leaders. In schools, at least there can be some individual successes in the classroom resulting from a good teacher and good students, but overall it’s a leadership issue.

DJ Sniper

March 16th, 2011
1:02 pm

There’s a very simple solution to solving this teacher crisis, and it’s not the money. You HAVE to return control of the classrooms back to the teachers. These day, the inmates are running the asylum. You have way too many kids out here with parents who will defend them, no matter how wrong they are. When the teacher is faced with them, the administration does not back them up at all. Instead, they bend to the will of the enabling parents for fear of a lawsuit.

Start standing up for the teachers and then maybe more people will want to enter the profession.

dc

March 16th, 2011
1:11 pm

You improve your teaching staff immensely by getting rid of the poor performers. Make that happen, and the morale of the better teachers will go up, as will their satisfaction with teaching.

If on the other hand, the poor performers are allowed to continue teaching, with no real penalty, then they’ll drag everyone down with them.

Georgia

March 16th, 2011
1:13 pm

I totally agree with these two statements:”No one can agree on what to teach,m how to teach it, and what to do when students are unsuccessful” and”You HAVE to return control of the classrooms back to the teachers.” I can guarantee that the children in Finland, Singapore, and Ontario RESPECT their elders. So many children misbehave in class yet it is excused as ADHD, my child is so bright that he isn’t challenged, etc…no, maybe the kid is just a brat and needs discipline. Also, my child is only in 4 grade, yet we have seen major changes in how reading, grammar and math are taught. They have actually had to send the teachers back to school to learn how to teach these “new methods”. Seriously?! Just pick something and stick with it. Perfect example is 70% support of the balanced calendar in Cobb, yet the CCSD decides to change it after less than 1 year.

Tom

March 16th, 2011
1:14 pm

Keeping and training good teachers is not nearly as big an issue as needing to get rid of the bad ones. Tenure is killing education.

HS Public Teacher

March 16th, 2011
1:19 pm

Here is how NOT to keep good teachers….

I was told that I HAD to work during my planning period AND my lunch. I was told that I was “lucky to have a job at all” during these economic times. Then, I was told that I was “needed” because I WAS a good teacher and that the students responded well to me.

Of course, they did not ask the “bad” teachers to spend their lunch and planning periods working.

Oh yeah – I get no more pay for this.

Do YOU think that I will be signing my contract for next year?

HS Public Teacher

March 16th, 2011
1:20 pm

@Tom

You are a total and absolute idiot. There is NO SUCH THING as teacher tenure in GA other than in some colleges.

Get a clue, dude, before you post a comment or open you mouth.

David Hoffman

March 16th, 2011
1:28 pm

Citizens of the USA do NOT value quality, they value quantity. Witness New York City where giant slices of poorly made pizza are considered fine dining. To take the time to craft a proper small pizza with excellent ingredients is considered a bad value by the citizens. See USA families purchasing poor handling SUVs that negate all the efforts to upgrade the poor handling USA made automobliles from the 1960’s and 1970’s. What good are sway bars, gas shocks, great tires, and excellent suspension geometry if you increase the Height of the Center Of Gravity by 6 inches and add 1000 pounds? I see people demand giant sized chicken wings that have the same consistency as rubber tire tread. To serve them tender small wings cooked with care is considered a rip off. I see idiots buy giant 20 inch plus wheels and install low grade giant tires with cheap directional tread because it looks cool. The purchase of proper sized excellent non directional tires to go on the original wheels is considered too expensive and not good value. We complain about airline seat size and baggage restrictions, but refuse to do anything but grab the lowest fare when we shop for air travel. We have yet to learn: It is not how fast you go, but how you go fast.

CobbParent

March 16th, 2011
1:35 pm

Haven’t read the comments yet, so I might be repeating….quit treating the good ones like crap and get rid of the bad ones.

GA Citizen

March 16th, 2011
1:36 pm

Written exam on pedagogy…examines students’ understanding of teaching…earn at least a masters degree in education… Ha, in Georgia one isn’t required to have any formal academic training in Education to become a fully certified teacher. The Public Service Commission offers a free pass via the “Georgia Teacher Academy for Preparation and Pedagogy”. Tired of your accounting job? Struggling in the career you were educated for? The GA PSC will get you into the teacher ranks through the back door!

williebkind

March 16th, 2011
1:37 pm

Maureen, how can a giant size country compete with a state small country. What is the population of Finland? Kinda important note to have is it? Ok, so let us pick a state the size of Finland and its population then go across the country and pick the best teachers. How is that? We have now results we can measure.

Georgia Matters

March 16th, 2011
1:43 pm

The teachers today and the kids of yesterday. That should tell you all you need to know. They just got by graduating highschool, had to start college taking 4 or 5 remedial classes just to advance into full college and graudated from college with a C-D average. Some of them have criminal pasts that are not fully checked out so what do you expect. The good teachers are told they cant control the kids or disapline them in any way, shape or form and the admininstratiors are to full of themselves expelling 1st graders for taking a finger and pointing it toward a wall and pulling their face trigger finger back. Either that or they call the police because they brought something special to show and tell. Our schools are a joke but what do you expect when the adults running them show no common sense.

jd

March 16th, 2011
1:43 pm

Until you have a deep, quality pool of candidates… it doesn’t matter whether you can fire the bad ones — you are only replacing poor candidates with poor candidates… To paraphrase Lester Maddox – if you want a better class of students, get a better class of students who want to be teachers.

williebkind

March 16th, 2011
1:45 pm

Let me get this straight! We want all cashiers, material handlers, common laborers to have a ba degree? This is all I read in liberal papers education, more education, and extensive education. Why dont you talk more about learning a discipline. A real skill. Hey take writing and journalism. Be more specific when you mention education. Remember I can go take a civil service test in the near future and score only in the 50’s to pass.

CobbParent

March 16th, 2011
1:46 pm

@HS Public Teacher. “Of course, they did not ask the “bad” teachers to spend their lunch and planning periods working.”

I hate to tell you this, but that is the way it is for the “doers” in this country, the high achievers. It is not just for teachers. The horse that pulls harder and longer will be tied to the plow more often. For every one of us hard workers there are ten “just get bys” and a couple of total deadbeats. The people running the joint know who the “doers” are and they push as hard as they can and we keep stepping up to the plate and trying to get the hit. It is our own fault…we are wired this way. No matter where you go, you will work this hard and feel underappreciated and abused. You either have to accept who you are or try to change it…I can tell you from experience that neither one is really great, but I have learned to just live with who I am now. Good luck.

williebkind

March 16th, 2011
1:49 pm

CobbParent

March 16th, 2011
1:46 pm
Your comment sounds like socialism.

yuzeyurbrain

March 16th, 2011
1:50 pm

Excellent article. But poor educ. in Ga. is multi-faceted. A large part has to do simply with general underfunding and ideological lack of support by ruling elites. For example, for last several years, Ga. legis. has cut billions from public educ., the most recent chapter being the HOPE cuts. At the same time, a bill is pending before the legislature today that would greatly expand vouchers for private school kids. This is in addition to $50 million a year the state allows private school parents to divert from their income taxes to the private school of their choice. While the Tax Reform Council’s proposal would eliminate that as well as over tax loopholes for the wealthy, the word on the street is that private school lobbyists have succeeded in getting commitments to kill this particular provision in committee. So much for shared sacrifices and the overall good of the state.

Pluto

March 16th, 2011
1:56 pm

My experience with admin that purges the “bad” teachers is upside down. The targeted teachers were actually “good” and were accused of being too demanding of students. By setting high expectations they shot themselves in both feet. They are both now working in high achieving private schools and are a major loss to the systems where they worked. Oh yeah they were physics and chemistry teachers. I thought they were in demand in the public schools?

CobbParent

March 16th, 2011
2:00 pm

@williebkind. No, it is just reality. It is life. You have about 25% of the people in any given office/school/whatever pulling most of the weight. Most people walk out of the office at the end of 8 hours (spent doing as little as possible to avoid being fired) and can forget about it until they have to drag their butts back in the next day. Some of us are wired differently. We just work harder. The key for me is learning how not to resent it because that would just be wasted energy.

MS Teacher

March 16th, 2011
2:02 pm

In response to Georgia Matters, I am a teacher, and I graduated with a double major from UGA with a 3.9 GPA. I was not an education major, but rather majored in the content I’d be teaching. Then I got my Masters in education with a 4.0 GPA. Many teachers are not dumb, but are forced to do things in their classroom that are not good methods of teaching.

Ways to improve education and retain teachers:
1. Give the teachers back their power.
2. Hold parents accountable.
3. Cut out many IEPs. Many students with them have no real disability at all.
4. Cut back on pointless meetings, pointless paperwork that gets put in a file and never looked at again, and other pointless activities.
5. Pay teachers more.
6. Allow teachers the right to speak up for themselves without penalty.
7. Get rid of Race to the Top and NCLB.

This is my second career. In my previous profession, if I felt something was wrong, I could speak directly to the person without having to worry about the safety of my job. I cannot do this at with this job. I will be punished for years to come if I speak up about anything. This is what is ruining teaching and education in the US.

williebkind

March 16th, 2011
2:08 pm

CobbParent

March 16th, 2011
2:00 pm
I agree with you! And how do you fix it…who knows?

Tom

March 16th, 2011
2:10 pm

@HS Public Teacher, thanks for your kind words. You are such a blessing to your staff I am sure. If there is no tenure then why do people want to get that 3rd contract signed so fast?

williebkind

March 16th, 2011
2:11 pm

MS Teacher

March 16th, 2011
2:02 pm
Nr 2. What does that mean? You want parents to be as educated as you?

Nr 5 Nope, If you want to make more money go to a private business or give up your teacher’s retirement and healthcare.

anon teacher

March 16th, 2011
2:27 pm

@Tom. What 3rd contract are you talking about? GA is a “right to work” state. We have no collective bargaining power and no tenure in the public schools here. Universities may be different, but you are just plain wrong about tenure in K-12 public education.

thelanius@yahoo.com

March 16th, 2011
2:42 pm

The only thing tenure does is gives you the right to due process. Meaning that you can’t be fired just because. There is tenure within some school systems in the state of Georgia. And I have seen plenty of teachers get fired. So, tenure is not the problem…..Btw, I am a high school teacher so I have a pretty good idea of what I’m talking about

I_Teach

March 16th, 2011
2:46 pm

Wow!
Let’s see…leaders who respect and encourage respect for teachers; support-both financial and professionally….and citizens who understand how vital teaching IS?

What a NOVEL concept!

Our country:
Teacher bashing-from the top to the bottom
Budget woes-let’s not even talk salaries….how about funding me for consumable supplies and necessary materials?
Professional Development..basically, it is on MY dime. This country, and Georgia specifically, have not figured out that our profession requires constant training…and we as a nation should support that, without having the teachers go broke.

I am lucky-I am in a job that I LOVE; I have supportive administrators; supportive parents.

I am just sick to death about opening up the paper and hearing about what a LOUSY job I am doing, and how I am overpaid.

I have two advanced degrees; I have three different certifications. I am dedicated to my job and my students. I sponsor three different student groups.

I can’t do anything more to prove that I am HERE, doing my best, and want support from the TOP!

I_Teach

March 16th, 2011
2:47 pm

Tom,
“Tenure,” as you are thinking is wrong. That ‘third contract tenure’ thing? All it means is that they cannot fire me, or non-renew me without cause.

New teachers, that is, those with less than 3 years service, can be ‘non-renewed’ with NO explanation.

Anyone who is let go is at least deserving of a reason…

So Much This

March 16th, 2011
2:47 pm

“This is my second career. In my previous profession, if I felt something was wrong, I could speak directly to the person without having to worry about the safety of my job. I cannot do this at with this job. I will be punished for years to come if I speak up about anything. This is what is ruining teaching and education in the US.”

So Much This

March 16th, 2011
2:52 pm

And Tom – It is the 4th contract that grants due process rights and takes a teacher out of the probationary phase.

Facts. Get you some.

Top School

March 16th, 2011
2:53 pm

You can’t hire the BEST…and then make them “sell out” to the established corruption.

APS is now looking for the BEST candidate for superintendent. The current APS board will make the decision. The CURRENT APS board did not monitor the situations that caused the corruption.

Leaving the APS BOARD and ADMINISTRATORS in positions of authority will just produce more of the same …with another propped up illusion of leadership.

HIRING THE BEST??? The best would have to sell their soul to continue to participate in the system. The BEST moves on…

http://www.TopPublicSchoolCorruptionAtlanta.com

Teacher's Spouse

March 16th, 2011
2:58 pm

The politicians have got to stop furloughing teachers and start back giving the cost of living raises (3%). Gas has risen $1.00 per gallon,food and clothing is up 30%,medical insurance is up 15% and scheduled to go up 25% in 2012. teachers will start leaving for the private sector if something isn’t done to compensate them fairly for their work. This goes for ALL state employees. Everything has gone up except their salaries !

Political Mongrel

March 16th, 2011
2:59 pm

@Tom,

There is no tenure in secondary and elementary schools in Georgia. Period. There is a Due Process law that makes certain that those removed are removed for good cause, not for frivolous reasons or to make way for a principal’s friend or a new coach. All a principal has to do is to do his/her job and document the reasons why a teacher should be let go, and it’s done. The idea that teachers can’t be removed or let go is bogus. It’s often an excuse of lazy administrators.

Tenure in GA is a joke

March 16th, 2011
3:07 pm

There is tenure in Georgia. Those who recieved tenure under the old system were grandfathered. Anyone in this category probably will be retiring soon anyway. The new system, that returned after a brief suspension of the tenure system, basically says that if the school system wants to get rid of you, then they must let you know by a certain date. It offers very little job security from the state level.

I am glad some of the bloggers are bringing up the other countries’ national cultures. This is so often ignored when we look at other countries’ educational systems. We can try every pedagogical technique there is, but it will not truly help U.S. education until our culture values education. Sure our leaders pay lip service to the value of education, but just go home, turn on the T.V., and observe what we really value in this country. (Hint: It is not education.)

atlmom

March 16th, 2011
3:11 pm

@williebkind: actually, part of the problem is the feds getting involved in education. let the states alone. it would be NICE if we could have a ‘governing body’ so to speak in the federal govt but they have proven that won’t ever happen. so get rid of the DOE get rid of block grants, leave the states alone, and maybe some of them will do something great (then the rest can follow).

Teacher's Spouse

March 16th, 2011
3:11 pm

My wife’s salary was cut 5% this year and they are scheduled for 5 non-paid furlough days. Everything has gone up 15% to 25% to live but our state government thinks its wise to cut state employees salaries ? Incredible.

mad russian

March 16th, 2011
3:11 pm

That’s it. I’m moving to Germany (since most of my family is German) so I can actually know what it feels like to be appreciated and supported. Since education is consistently under attack by liberals and conservatives because they know how much money than can bilk off of the taxpayers this model will never happen in the U.S. My students are being farmed out to become little robots rather than citizens. To think that Obama made his voters believe in him and he turned out to be a conservative in disguise. I wonder what it’s like to be a one term president?

Teacher's Spouse

March 16th, 2011
3:14 pm

There’s too many Chiefs (administrators & assistant principals) and not enough Indians (teachers). Get rid of some Chiefs that don’t do anything.

Clueless

March 16th, 2011
3:22 pm

This still assumes that teachers are the problem with education.