Phi Beta Cons

How Do We Produce Good Teachers?

In today’s Pope Center Clarion Call, Jay Schalin writes about a very important piece of research that has just come out of the UNC system. It’s a report on “The Impact of Teacher Preparation on Student Learning,” and finds that students perform better if they’re taught by “non-traditionally” trained teachers rather than those with education-school pedigrees. Teach for America wins high honors.

What explains why teachers who have not specifically studied to become teachers (Teach for America people have earned degrees in actual academic disciplines) tend to impart more knowledge than ed-school types?

One reason is that TFA only takes graduates of top universities — an intellectually gifted group of people. In contrast, the students drawn into your standard ed-school program are generally among the least gifted at any college or university. Smarter teachers are better at engaging with students, motivating them to learn.

Another reason is that TFA teachers have not been put through the ed-school processing plant, where you find weak and dubious courses having far more to do with politics than academics and professors you would hardly entrust your children to — for example a professor of “science instruction” who questions the objectivity of science, saying that it depends more on “factors like power, culture, race, gender, and ethnicity.”

Undoubtedly, this report will put American ed schools at DefCon 5 in short order.

George Leef is the the director of editorial content at the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal.

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