Tag Archives: Finland

New Research: “Prospective Teachers Respond to Economic Incentives,” Absent “Economic Incentives,” How Can We Attract and Retain Teachers?

My principal at James Madison Hugh School was Henry Hillson, a classmate of Nelson Rockefeller at Dartmouth, Jules Kolodny was a founder and officer at the UFT, and he earned a law degree and a Phd in economics. They were products of the Great Depression, graduated from college in the 30’s, jobs were scarce, especially for Jews, and, entry into teaching required passing a rank order civil service examination. The teaching force was exemplary, in a more prosperous era they would have risen in the world of law, medicine, business or university academia.

With the reintroduction of the draft in the early 60’s teaching in a high poverty school came with a draft deferment, and, once again, college graduates heading toward other careers ended up in teaching. Some taught a few years and moved on, others, many of my workmates stayed in teaching. Three of my department members had Phd degrees.

In the 80’s and 90’s schools were desperate for teachers, the NYC Board of Education issued provisional, probationary teaching (PPT) certificates, requiring a handful of college credits, the pre-service literacy exam was deferred. In the mid-nineties, seventeen percent of teachers were PPT’s; teachers unable to pass a low level literacy examination.

Professor Martin West tweeted the results of his large research project, 30,000 third and fourth grade teachers in Florida and found,

“… teachers entering the profession during recessions are significantly more effective in raising student test scores…”

We exchanged tweets,

Peter Goodman‏ @edintheapple 20h20 hours ago

Replying to  @ProfMartyWest

The Great Depression drove the best and the brightest into teaching, and, with a Board of Examiners “blind” civil service exam and rank order appointments our teaching force in NYC was unparalleled

Martin West‏ @ProfMartyWest 20h20 hours ago

Replying to @edintheapple

This would be a very interesting historical parallel. While “more recessions” is not the right policy prescription, hiring more (or at least not fewer) teachers during recessions probably is.

West’s research only confirms what we already knew, outside options matter, economic downturns, the draft, impact job choices, and, during prosperous economic periods teachers are drawn from the “lower cognitive distribution” of college graduates.  The primary reasons are lower salaries, low status and the job itself.

… individuals entering the teaching profession in the United States tend to come from the lower part of the cognitive ability distribution of college graduates (Hanushek and Pace, 1995). One frequently cited reason for not being able to recruit higher-skilled individuals as teachers is low salaries compared to other professions (e.g., Dolton and Marcenaro-Gutierrez, 2011; Hanushek et al., forthcoming).

Currently enrollment in teacher preparation programs are sharply down, fewer prospective teachers in the pipeline, additionally, the attrition rate among new teachers is depressingly high.

Linda Darling-Hammond at the Learning Policy Institute has conducted extensive research on why teachers leave,

  • inadequate preparation
  • lack of support for new teachers
  • challenging working conditions
  • dissatisfaction with compensation
  • better career opportunities
  • personal reasons

Why is our nation unable to hire and retain the most effective teachers?  Why have policies been so unsuccessful?

The NCATE (now known as CAEP), in a major report, “Transforming Teacher Education Through Clinical Practice: A National Strategy to Prepare Effective Teachers   (2010),” reports,

The education of teachers in the United States needs to be turned upside down. To prepare effective teachers for 21st century classrooms, teacher education must shift away from a norm which emphasizes academic preparation and course work loosely linked to school-based experiences. Rather, it must move to programs that are fully grounded in clinical practice and interwoven with academic content and professional courses. This demanding, clinically based approach will create varied and extensive opportunities for candidates to connect what they learn with the challenge of using it, while under the expert tutelage of skilled clinical educators. Candidates will blend practitioner knowledge with academic knowledge as they learn by doing. They will refine their practice in the light of new knowledge acquired and data gathered about whether their students are learning.

 In order to make this change, teacher education programs must work in close partnership with school districts to redesign teacher preparation to better serve prospective teachers and the students they teach. Partnerships should include shared decision making and oversight on candidate selection and completion by school districts and teacher education programs.

 New York State moved in a different direction, the State Education Department (SED) under Commissioner John King “solved” the problem by requiring four examinations; eight years later there is no evidence that the exams have approved teacher effectiveness. Over the last few months SED has presented increases in clinical preparation hours, the Board of Regents had doubts and the resolution was withdrawn.

My suggestions:

I agree that teacher education programs must work in close partnerships with school districts, I would add teacher unions; excluding teacher unions is foolish, pre-service teaching candidates will become teachers and teacher union members, to include unions gives the stamp of approval and increases the chances that teachers will volunteer to work as cooperating teachers.

In New York City the Teaching Fellows program has been around for twenty-five years, an alternative certification program targeting career changers in shortage areas; the program has been highly successful. The new Men Teach program, in its third year targets men of color already accepted into four-year CUNY campuses. There is increasing evidence the positive impact of teachers of color, especially males.

The alternative certification programs referenced supra should be replicated in the SUNY colleges around the state.

Teacher preparation programs in the senior year should be sited in schools. School districts and colleges should identify schools in which to cluster student teachers and the accompanying coursework should be taught at the school sites, the prospective teachers should become part of the school community.

Newly appointed probationary teachers need high quality teacher mentors, unfortunately there is no training for mentors.

The Board of Regents/State Education passes resolutions, policies that too often do not impact classrooms,

I’m constantly told, why can’t we just be like Finland, well, not so easy,

 High quality teachers are the hallmark of Finland’s education system. Annual national opinion polls have repeatedly shown that teaching is Finland’s most admired profession, and primary school teaching is the most sought-after career. The attractiveness of teaching likely has much more to do with the selection process, the work itself, and the working conditions than teacher pay (which is similar to that in many other European countries) or simply respect for teachers. Because Finland has very high standards that must be met to enter teacher preparation programs, just getting in is a prestigious accomplishment.

 While teaching in Finland is one of the most highly regarded professions, teaching in our nation the opposite, with prospective teachers drown from lower “cognitive ability” candidates.

What we can do is to try and replicate the Finnish education in the communities with the highest poverty and lowest achievement. Candidates paid a stipend during training, research-based instruction/training, a mentorship pathway from apprentice to teacher. Yes, expensive; however, many times less expensive than the endless remedial instruction that we now depend upon, without much to show at the end of the journey.