De-professionalization of teaching in America sets us back and apart

Stanford education professor Linda Darling-Hammond takes a sobering look at U.S. teacher training in a guest column for the Washington Post’s Answer Sheet blog. (This is another great referral from Jordan, who is going to start charging me a finder’s fee.)

Founding director of the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, Darling-Hammond writes about the first ever International Summit on Teaching and the growing efforts of academically forward-thinking nations to recruit, train and retain great teachers.

While noting all the firsts associated with the summit, Darling-Hammond said, “And it was, perhaps, the first time that the growing de-professionalization of teaching in America was recognized as out of step with the strategies pursued by the world’s educational leaders.”

Among her other comments:

Perhaps most stunning was the detailed statement of the Chinese Minister of Education who described how – in the poor states which lag behind the star provinces of Hong Kong and Shanghai – billions of yen are being spent on a fast-paced plan to improve millions of teachers’ preparation and professional development, salaries, working conditions and living conditions (including building special teachers’ housing) The initial efforts to improve teachers’ knowledge and skills and stem attrition are being rapidly scaled up as their success is proved.

How poignant for Americans to listen to this account while nearly every successful program developed to support teachers’ learning in the United States is proposed for termination by the Obama administration or the Congress: Among these, the TEACH Grants that subsidize preparation for those who will teach in high-need schools; the Teacher Quality Partnership grants that support innovative pre-service programs in high-need communities; the National Writing Project and the Striving Readers programs that have supported professional development for the teaching of reading and writing all across the country, and the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, which certifies accomplished teachers and provides what teachers have long called some of the most powerful professional development they ever experience in their careers.

These small programs total less than $1 billion dollars annually, the cost of half a week in Afghanistan. They are not nearly enough to constitute a national policy; yet they are among the few supports America now provides to improve the quality of teaching.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

42 comments Add your comment

B. Killebrew

March 22nd, 2011
8:51 pm

Thanks to Jordan–but really Maureen…

true, professional teachers in the know are very up on these articles, topics, etc.

This piece by Darling-Hammond is awesome–and so this morning.


March 22nd, 2011
8:57 pm

I don’t get the paper where I’m at, so thanks for the heads-up, Maureen.


March 22nd, 2011
9:13 pm

Thank goodness. Voucher boy, Chip Rogers, didn’t his bill through this year. Bet the shob nosed private school product will push again next year.

HS teacher

March 22nd, 2011
9:15 pm

Our brilliant young enthusiastic science teacher has just decided she’s going back to school ….to get a degree that will get her out the teaching door as fast as she can. She was deciding between returning for a education PhD or something else. She chose something else ….who can blame her.

Jordan Kohanim

March 22nd, 2011
9:20 pm

B.Killebrew- How true that is! I got this from my super-in-know teacher pal, Katie Greene. :-)


March 22nd, 2011
9:28 pm

Teaching is more of a trade than a profession thanks to the low admission standards of teacher preparation programs, unionization (professional organization), and a standardized pay schedule with no compensation for performance.

Really now...

March 22nd, 2011
9:33 pm

Teachers are not considered professionals. No more respect. Rather we are public servants who get paid too much to do nothing. I am so over it.


March 22nd, 2011
9:34 pm

FINALLY…someone making sense. Instead of bashing the teachers we already have when morale is already low, someone makes a rational suggestion for improvement.

Someone on this blog suggested a program similar to what doctors go through. For an internship, allow schools to hire students for lowered points and salary where they only work part-time and are still connected to a university, getting outside training and support throughout that first year.

No other professions will hire someone and expect them to do the same exact job as someone with 30+ years of experience. In the business world, you start low and work your way up. Yet first year teachers are held to the same standards as the rest of us with little support. If you want improvement, focus on the front end for teachers coming into the profession.

Ed Johnson

March 22nd, 2011
9:34 pm

More significantly…

“The Singaporean Minister explicitly noted that his country’s well-developed teacher evaluation system does not “digitally rank or calibrate teachers,” and focuses instead on how well teachers develop the whole child and contribute to each others’ efforts and to the welfare of the whole school.”

Imagine that, a Deming-like teaching and learning system. No ranking. No competition.

And United Negro College Fund’s CEO Michael Lomax thinks the problem is “instruction.” How sad.


March 22nd, 2011
9:34 pm

Clearly, another first is called for if we are ever to regain our educational standing in the world: A first step toward finally taking teaching seriously in America. Will our leaders be willing to take that step? Or will we devolve into a third class power because we have neglected our most important resource for creating a first-class system of education?

It’s pretty obvious what the answer is in Georgia.

I love teaching. I hate what it is becoming...

March 22nd, 2011
9:36 pm

You may have a point FBT, but I wonder how many would be willing to raise taxes in order to raise the level of pay necessary to be competitive in attracting highly qualified individuals into the educational preparation programs. If you are going to raise the admission standards (which I think they should) then you had better be prepared to raise the pay level – and since linking performance to compensation is being sold as a “money saving” move, I can’t see that really happening.


March 22nd, 2011
9:42 pm

I agree with FBT. If teachers want to have the same professional status that doctors and lawyers have, they need to deunionize and compete in the free market. Every good teacher I’ve ever known has left the profession. One, because they’ve been treated as low level clock punchers by administration. Second, it irks them to not receive any more monetary compensation than the bad teachers when they are smarter and work harder.

I love teaching. I hate what it is becoming...

March 22nd, 2011
9:52 pm


We aren’t unionized in Georgia – and we are still treated like low level clock punchers….

A “free market” approach does not work when determining pay in a field where you have no control over the materials provided with which to make your “product.”

history teacher

March 22nd, 2011
10:20 pm

To I love teaching…… thanks again for restating the obvious. Teachers are not unionized in Georgia. Just because bloggers keep repeating it doesnt make it so. If we were unionized, it would be past time to change unions. I have no problem with being evaluated on my work as long as I can fairly evaluate my chidlren on their work, attendance and behavior. I teach AP most of the day so my test scores are great. However, I am not so out of touch that I dont know what would happen to that 90% pass rate, with a few more “regular classes added to my day. I have two regular college prep history classes. In a class of 28, I have two A’s , 4 B’s several C’s and 10 F’s. For the students that are failing, every one has missed 15 or more days and I have two who are over 40 days. They refuse to stay in a redo tests or make up work before or after school,(Our school provides buses for students who need to stay and make up work.) I have started eating in my room and letting them come in with their lunch to finish and redo assignments. I might have one a week. When I call parents, they talk the talk, However, in reality they cant make their children do because they are not the boss. However, I am sure that when these children fail the GHSGT on Thursday, their attendance and lack of work ethic wont be part of the problem.

HS Public Teacher

March 22nd, 2011
11:02 pm

Honor teachers? Pay teachers a real salary? Whaaatttt? Those words simply don’t make sense in Georgia!

In Georgia, we make the teachers do all of the work while the students do nothing. Yeah – our students are top notch! We let students take re-do test (aka recovery) as many times as they like….. we never want parents to complain – oh no! Students never have to really perform on any assessments because they know that they can goof off and do it again!

I actually had a student complain to me one day about what I did for that day. He said – “all you did was spend 2 hours preparing a powerpoint.” Think about it. The TEACHER spent 2 hours on a lesson for the students. If the STUDENTS would only spend 2 hours for that day studying, imagine the learning possiblities! But, nooooooooo! I was at fault for some reason – it makes sense in Georgia!

Gotta luv this messed up State.

FC teacher

March 22nd, 2011
11:12 pm

Just imagine how great it would be if we could provide the kind of training, support and pay that teachers deserve.

I’d like to blame my low morale today on simply being tired because it’s March and GHSGT week, but after seven years in high school public ed, I know the problem i–that I’ve worked seven years in high school public ed.

Last month, after talking to students over and over again about college, it struck me that I should take my own advice and explore the other career possibilities myself. If I’m going to work this hard with a graduate degree, I’d like a little more money and respect, so I’m seeking out programs in IT.

It makes me sad to think of leaving the classroom, but it makes me sadder to imagine what the classroom and the teaching profession might be like in another decade or two. I need to leave while I still can.

FL Teach

March 22nd, 2011
11:27 pm

Try coming to Florida. After 17 years of teaching, earning a Master’s Degree, getting National Board Certified and now I will graduate with my Specialist Degree this semester in Ed Leadership. After hearing about tenure being cut, pay cut, and performance pay, I feel like I am done. All tapped out! Where or where can a teacher go to pursue another career in this economy? Public education is coming to end and it is such a shame. Everything is all about power and money.


March 23rd, 2011
12:17 am

@FC Teacher,

If you really don’t want to leave teaching (and I hope you don’t), why not consider working overseas? You will find good pay and challenging work. I absolutely hated teaching in north Fulton, for many reasons, and leaving behind the plantation mentality revitalized my career. Like one of the other posters, I love teaching, but I hate what it’s becoming in Georgia.

I am not talking about the “teach English in Asia” kinds of jobs. Most of those are only really appropriate for recent college graduates willing to live in hostel-like conditions. For someone like you (experienced, educated, and professional), there are some really good opportunities. Of courses, the ex-pat life is not for everyone, but the benefits are myriad. If you have children, they will be able to get an education reserved only for the wealthy in Georgia.

If you will do a little research, you will find that there are some interviews coming up in Atlanta pretty soon. Maybe you don’t need to leave teaching: you just need to flee Georgia as fast as you can. I was where you are not too long ago.

Peace be with you.


March 23rd, 2011
12:31 am

You cannot make youth understand accountability for their work because we will not tolerate failure. We talk about ending social promotion. We will not because no politician is going to be saddled with 17 year olds in the 7th grade. We refuse to put kids out of school for serious behavior problems because society now sees schools as a warehouse operation for parents who cannot or will not be responsible.


March 23rd, 2011
12:32 am

You said it Jack.

B. Killebrew

March 23rd, 2011
1:05 am



And I went to middle+high school with one of your Centennial colleagues…

Go Figure

March 23rd, 2011
3:37 am

Who runs the medical profession? Doctors. Who runs the legal profession? Lawyers. Who runs education? Doctors, lawyers and business. Why are there boards of education? Education is nothing more than a sound bite for politicans. They do not want educators running education because it would expose their complete lack of common sense. I quit teaching after havng superintendents and principals that had never been in the classroom. Imagine a person with a medical degree BUT never having done any hands on medicine telling doctors how to perform surgery. Decatur County now has a superintendent that has absolute minimal classroom time, is politically connected and telling teachers that they cannot buy beer at Walmart. He jumped down a principal’s throat because a couple of teachers were helping out in band during their planning time. These same teachers show up at 6AM, leave late everyday and work weekends at the school. They are also gifted musicians and now the value of of music to education. One of them has a doctorate in mathematics and volunteers at Bainbridge College to help tutor math. This is what happens when a person with an Ag degree is the superintendent. No clue as to how education works. Go figure.

Go Figure

March 23rd, 2011
3:53 am

Oops. Know the value of music. This is an issue that frustrates me. This makes my emotions boil and when that happens I do not do a qualified job of proofing my post. If you cannot read or write you have nothing. Yet, nost that have great jobs got their from their education which was a gift from their teacher. Now they run down and degrade that same teacher. Amazing.


March 23rd, 2011
4:45 am

Go figure – you are so correct. I go in every school day at 6:30 and usually do not get home untill after 6. That equals 3 free hours every day just to do paperwork. I looked at your Superintendent’s resume on your newspaper. Looks to be politically connected to the guv’ner. This is what happens when you have political appointments. That is what this is. One call from the guv’ner to the BOE and this guy is in. May have the paper qualifications but I am sure you had more qualified apply. If it is like my county it is the BOE good ole boys network bringing in a good ole boy. I wonder what the numbers are when it comes to superintendents? How many males versus females? How many former football coaches? My last principal was a football coach that had a male order education degree and no classroom experience. One of those degrees from the mid 90s that did not require any classwork or class time and cost a couple of thousand dollars. Now I hear he is up to replace the retiring superintendent. These are the situations that are also deprofressionalizing education and destroying moral. I also think that teachers bring a lot of the problems on their profession by what is perceived as whining. Teachers mobilized to take down King Roy. They should get actively involved in fixing education and work towards depolticizing education. One step forward at a time. Accept parent volunteers. Get parents involved and see the power they have to change. Bring them into the classroom to observe and mentor. I had a parent no-notice visit their son’s chemistry class (somewhat of a trouble maker). The parent quietly walked in the door (in the back) and watched – catching their son texting during a class he was failing. Word got around and frequently have parents visit. Down side – I am also spending a lot of time tutoring parents in college chemistry. Up side – my classrooms are in a different world that what they were. I also have a lot of parental involvement and cross communication. These parents will also call the board in a heart beat if they have any questions or problems and have gotten many positive changes implemented – a huge PLUS. My little effort to professionalize the teaching field. Plus, many parents are now considering career changes into teaching. Example, a single parent of a former student that wanted to improve her position in life. Volunteered ar school, offered a parapro, went to college and got her degree in chemistry. Took her nine years but last year left teaching for a job that paid her twice what teaching did. One parent that believes in the value of teachers and education.


March 23rd, 2011
5:29 am

I love teaching and I am fortunate to teach some of the best and brightest in the state. However, after the paycuts, increases in insurance, furlough days, etc. I can’t recommend those students, in good conscience, to pursue teaching. Previously I did. We can’t attract the best and expect them to stay in the profession in the current climate of education.

God Bless the Teacher!

March 23rd, 2011
6:16 am

If pay for performance is fully implemented and too many teachers exceed expectations, will the State and school districts be willing and able to pay the increased salaries (since I’m assuming they will exceed the current step/degree/experience pay scale)? Or will they renege like they did with National Board folks? I think the latter…

HS Math Teacher

March 23rd, 2011
6:41 am

Professors with Ph.D’s are Professionals – not Teachers. Like it or not, that’s just the way it is. Actuaries are professionals. They have to have at least a Masters in Mathematics (concentrating in Statistics), along with at least 5 years working for a large insurance company under the tutelage of a seasoned actuary. Then, a lot of them go to actuarial firms afterward. They make big bucks, and have great working conditions. I think the lowest step on the ladder of what’s always been deemed a profession is Accounting. I don’t quite see it, but … that’s just the way it is.

There’s something about working with teenagers, and younger kids. People still see the apple on the desk, the chalkboard, and that weird Science teacher down the hall that can’t match his clothes properly.

HS Math Teacher

March 23rd, 2011
6:50 am

Correction: …WHO can’t match his clothes properly.


March 23rd, 2011
9:11 am

I guess someone has to make the obigatory response to an international comparison…

You can’t compare America to other countries! That’s like comparing apples to oranges! We’re totally different! Who cares what other countries do for their teachers, they don’t have –insert issue here– that we have to deal with in America!

In seriousness, it’s disappointing to hear the differences in how teachers are supported in the different countries relative to the U.S.. I’ll have to read more about this Summit.


March 23rd, 2011
11:16 am

So who will Arne Duncan listen to…..the international leaders or Bill Gates, Eli Broad, Rhee, and Klein?

Who will the Georgia legislators listen to?

Patrick Crabtree

March 23rd, 2011
12:05 pm

Stop blaming unions. That is the ploy INCOMPETENT administrators use to hide their lack of skills. Unions NEVER protected ‘bad’ teachers, but rather the PROCESS. Good administrators follow policy & laws and they do FIRE. My union helps teachesr teach, this is professional. What if the unions not protected the teachers in Atlanta and DeKalb? THe administrators would have doe more to coerce teachers to cheat and falsely document or be fired for not doing so and the public would really be in the dark. DO the real research and question why the unions are blamed.


March 23rd, 2011
2:19 pm

“It’s in the union’s best interest to get rid of bad teachers. Bad teachers make us ALL look bad.” — a friend of mine who is the former president of a local teachers’ union in a NW state with 1,400 members.

Ole Guy

March 23rd, 2011
3:30 pm

While working on the career-change notion that teaching might be a good way to pass on a few “old school” values, I could see this “de-professionalism” developing back in the 90s. The common belief, both among the “young 20-something things”, and the ed staff, was that one had to “love kids”. Well hey, holding that criteria to teacher candidacy is like a gourmet restaurant posting a sign demanding a love of food. After all, a hungry bear, eating up all the goodies in the neighborhood all-you-can-eat joint would have a “love of food”, but not necessarily an appreciation for the better things in the world of fine eateries. Would it not be more appropriate to inquire as to one’s APPRECIATION for the finer foods? By the very same token, rather than actively appealing to (typically) womens’ nurturing instinct/love of someone elses kid, would it not make a helluva lot more sense…and be a helluva lot more PROFESSIONAL…for the teacher wanabe to have an interest in the DEVELOPMENT of kids, rather than the love of kids?

I almost puked one day when, during one of those “why do you want to be a teacher” fests, one young thing broke into tears while describing her “love” of the “cute little children” (finger-in-throat…GAG GAG GAG!). Of course, everyone, teacher included, indicated approval with applause and substantiating comments, etc, ad nauseum. Right then and there, I had to question “And where’s the professionalism?” (Of course, my querry was more of a statesman quality).

While student teaching, I saw the very same behavior among “seasoned” teachers. Then, when I had my own class, I started receiving dirty looks from those “seasoned” teachers, as well as parents of “displeased kids” because “I was looking at them crosseyed”. I’m a Marine…I respond to wayward kids as I respond to wayward troops (with modulated adjustments, of course). In other words, my interactions with ANYONE with whom I am charged with the responsibilities of developing are PROFESSIONAL…NOT LOVING!

Long long ago, during my abreviated soujourn in the classroom, I could see the de-professionalism process taking place. It all started the day the “self esteem” issue took a deadly stranglehold on education. Some guru decided that self esteem, rather than being earned through achievement, should be handed out like the dealer handing out cards at the all-night game/like the dealer at the Vegas craps table. By focusing on the self esteem issue, rather than old school values, the educational system gambled…AND LOST! Unfortunately, the “players”…the kids…lost as well.

Archie@Arkham Asylum

March 23rd, 2011
4:38 pm

I spent 24 years in the teaching “perfession” ( Pre-Arkham Asylum). I would have to say that despite public school “politically correct” pronouncements, I fulfilled a “religious calling” during that time period. As I came to see it, we teachers had an apostolate to the barbarians just like the Benedictine monks did in the Middle Ages. During my years teaching high school (and later middle school) I remember a lot of students that resembled the Visigoths, if not in features, in their inability to read and write, their severe emotional and behavioral problems and their apathetic approach to life. The time we teachers had to spend on non-teaching duties such as trying to maintain “law and order” eventually equaled the time we spent trying to teach. A school is not a democracy and it can’t be. You can’t teach a class with a dry erase marker in one hand and a gun in the other. (Most teachers are not psychologically fit to handle firearms anyway!) I still remember when we teachers were taught that “if kids feel good about themselves, then they will achieve.” As time went by I wondered if we shouldn’t try the reverse of that like; “If kids achieve, then they will feel good about themselves.”


March 23rd, 2011
4:40 pm

we’ll have very few career teachers in the future. They’ll get out of college, teach a few years and say “forget it, its not worth it”. Thanks to losers like voucher boy, Chip Rogers, we’ve got to protect public dollars for education every year.


March 23rd, 2011
4:41 pm

Many parents need to get off their fat rear ends and raise their children. Too many are stuck in the breeding mode.


March 23rd, 2011
5:29 pm

Go Figure–I have had the “pleasure” of working for that same super. Same issues, same witch hunts. I hear that he has removed a principal at a middle school. Could it be the same principal you alluded to?


March 23rd, 2011
10:32 pm

For years now we have all heard…we need to hold teachers accountable. Well…let’s hear some talk about holding parents accountable. Kids belong to their parents. They do not belong to the teachers.


March 24th, 2011
12:12 am

@Oleguy @Archie

You are examples of what I am talking about. People who are experienced in life and competent, those who could bring much richness to the teaching field, cannot find a way to remain in the classroom any longer.

Daniel Larsen

March 24th, 2011
8:34 am

In four years, after cutting salaries in half (pay for performance) there will be a thousand openings and no applicants. Nice job, Arnie. Of course, the thugs in Washington know that — its deliberate. Too bad Georgia couldn’t resist the money that enslaved us to this scam.


March 24th, 2011
4:44 pm

Just lsike we have pre-med, pre-law, pre-manufacturing, etc. we should also have pre-teaching. The aspiring teacher should be an intern in the class room certainly by the time they are seniors in high school. Young men and women in high school are darned smart and learn quickly. Much advantage to the student and the school system.

Ole Guy

March 25th, 2011
1:58 pm

And so…we’ve identified a few areas (rightly or wrongly) within the (clearing of throat) profession which may be in need of remediation. Thus far, I have seen no evidence/no action on the part of the teacher corps to “start bailing water out of the capsizing educational ship”. NO ONE, who pretends to represent the profession, seems willing to step out, assume command of operations, and initiate the corrective measures so-badly needed. Is one to presume that you teachers are running scared for your own personal interests…too intimidated by the powers that be? YOU…I repeat…YOU, the teacher corps, must take the first steps. YOU, the teacher corps, know the details and what exactly, must be done. These things won’t happen by “public osmosis”…parents are too stupid, the general public either don’t give a damn or has too many issues with which to contend without worrying about the education of other peoples’ kids. What happened to the Bethunes…the Rickovers…the legions of educational visionaries from years past…who were not affraid to step up to the plate/who called for educational excellence, not from the protected privacy of the key board, but “nose-to-nose” with the power brokers who know only sound bites, photo ops, catch phrases, and “programs” of dubious value and extremely short-sighted design. Are there any true leaders within the teacher corps?