If student success is the goal of education, quality teaching is the means by which that goal is achieved. It is a simple truth, supported by evidence from achievement scores and teacher assessments around the world. Echoed over and over by effective educational policy makers, an educational system is only as good as its teachers. Furthering this idea, the only way to ensure the highest levels of instruction in the classroom is to invest in teacher education and support.
Studies of countries with the highest levels of assessed student achievement show that a focus on a careful selection process for teachers to be trained, rigorous training including mentorship and apprenticeship, and an overall elevation in the cultural status of teachers all correlate directly with these high-achieving student populations. A key component of this training regimen in educational methods and appropriate applications is ongoing professional development and learning throughout teaching careers.
Many of the highest performing U.S. schools and school systems are following suit, hiring in-school instructional coaches and paraprofessionals with appropriate advanced training such as an online Master of Education in Curriculum & Instruction from the University of Texas at Arlington. With a curriculum and instruction master's degree, educators can position themselves to be leaders in our educational system, helping teachers become better teachers, in turn helping students succeed and achieve.
The Myth of "Good Teachers"
Studies have shown that the top teachers in U.S. school systems can have an exponentially more effective impact on their students' achievement, even more pronounced in early education. As is commonly thought, students in the early stages of primary school who achieve at or above testing standards are much more likely to pursue higher education after mandated school. Clearly, good teachers are essential to student success at all ages and phases of their education.
Yet, the phrase "good teachers" can be misleading. The ability to teach effectively is often seen as innate, something one is born with. This idea is reinforced in modern culture with movies portraying inspiring teachers as rare, gifted individuals. Stories in the news highlight the heroic achievements of singular teachers succeeding in poorly funded schools in disadvantaged communities. This concept is limiting, downplaying the importance of educating teachers from all backgrounds. It also overlooks the fact that if an educational system is to achieve widespread student success, that system must uniformly educate and train large numbers of teachers, not just rely on an elite population of innately gifted ones.
Effectively Selecting and Educating Teachers
In countries like Finland and Singapore with the highest-achieving educational systems, educational leaders do not focus on finding people who were born to be the best teachers. They base their selection process for training programs on candidates with a proven high level of competency in core characteristics like communication, literacy, numeracy, and motivation to teach. The candidates then go through various stages of further selection. Once selected, prospective teachers receive rigorous training in effective instructional methods as well as when and how to employ them. That they are held to the highest standards and required to participate in intensive mentorships or apprenticeships clearly emphasizes the experiential application of their learning as well as their induction into the classroom.
And the process does not stop there, as is often the case in the States. Throughout their careers, these teachers can devote an impressive portion of their working hours to extensive professional development and continued learning in innovative methods, technologies, and their application. On-the-job instructional coaching is readily available. And teachers are also given substantial time each week to collaborate with one another, participate in each other's classrooms, evaluate and learn from one another, and go through development programs together.
Collaboration has been proven as one of the most important aspects of creating a unified, high-quality, and ever-improving teaching staff, leading to better instruction and higher levels of student success. In short, the most successful educational systems in the world value teacher quality and instruction above all else.
The Status and Perception of Teaching
The value a culture puts on its teachers will have a great impact not only on who enters the profession but also on how committed and motivated they are. In many high-achieving countries, teaching is widely seen as being one of the most important and selective professions.
In the United States, teaching -- with its low academic standards and streamlined certification programs -- is generally perceived as an easy profession to pursue. Yet policy changes and campaigns intended to alter and elevate the status of teaching as a profession, such as the recent movement in England, have proven effective with rapid results, and education in England is fast becoming the most popular professional pursuit for undergraduate and graduate students alike.
Although the U.S. is among the richest countries in the world and invests heavily in its educational system, its student achievement rates trail behind those in other countries. The most obvious way to improve this country's educational system is to invest in its teachers, not merely with better compensation but with better teacher training and mentoring before teachers enter the school system, during the induction process, and throughout their careers.
Investing in teachers alone will elevate the value placed on teaching as a profession, further increasing the quality of graduates receiving training and entering the workforce. Those pursuing curriculum and instruction master's degrees have the opportunity to become leaders in training programs and schools. Through their work, they can effect an improvement in teaching quality and resultant student success.
Learn more about the UTA online M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction programs.
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