Our goal as a community must be to have a competent, caring and high-quality teacher in every classroom. Why? Teacher quality is the most important school-based factor in a high- quality education.
To that end, we must invest in high-quality teaching and organize schools for success for all of our students. This trumps other investments, such as reduced class size, overall spending on education, and teacher financial incentives and salaries.
There are clear conditions that must be present to attract and retain high-quality teachers, especially in challenging schools.
Pre-service preparation through appropriate and rigorous experiences at the university, in collaboration with faculty and public school teachers, is crucial. Teacher preparation programs, state departments of education and school districts must engage in residency programs analogous to the residency model in schools of medicine.
School leadership matters . . . a lot. Principal behavior is the primary factor affecting a teacher’s decision to stay at or leave a particular school. In fact, leadership behavior is a stronger predictor of teacher retention than either student demographics or achievement.
Teaching and learning conditions — such as job-imbedded professional development, teaching assistants and administrative support— matter more than individual financial incentives. In partnership with communities, school districts must provide sufficient resources to get the job done — newer technologies, instructional equipment and supplies, and access to social and health services.
Schools must provide the opportunity for teachers to work collaboratively with peers who share the responsibility for every student’s success. Teachers must work with colleagues
to analyze student work, plan lessons and build relationships with students and families.
Effective teachers are committed to creative teaching and inquiry learning. Teaching is about discovery, learning and awe, not minute-by-minute curriculum mandates, scripted instruction and testing.
Education policymakers and administrators would be well served by recognizing the complexity of the issue of teacher quality and adopting multiple measures along many dimensions to support existing teachers and to attract new, highly qualified teachers.
Research suggests that investing in teachers can make a difference in student achievement. To implement needed policies associated with staffing every classroom — even the most challenging ones — with high-quality teachers, substantial and targeted investments must first be made in teaching quality.