Sunday, June 21, 2009

Top systems and teacher recruitment

The top performing school systems consistently attract more able people into the teaching profession, leading to better student outcomes. They do this by making entry to teacher training highly selective, developing effective processes for selecting the right applicants to become teachers, and paying good (but not great) starting compensation.
In the McKinsey & Co. analysis of the world's best performing school systems (quoted above, available here), teacher recruitment is a crucial element. The selectivity works by tightly limiting the number of people admitted to teaching programs, aiming to choose from the top 30 percent of their graduates and to select for communication skills and motivation to teach along with overall academics. Admitting small numbers allows these systems to spend more preparing each teacher candidate and to be more confident that all those who complete the program will be hired for teacher positions.

Of course, admitting smaller numbers will also mean that the system also needs a high success rate, with nearly every person who trains for teaching truly making it a career. I have friends in England who made career choices like that, nearly irrevocable, at 18 or 19, but I find it hard to imagine American young adults jumping in that early. To me, this approach sounds more likely to work after students complete a bachelor's degree, when they're ready to apply for an M.A.T. or an alternative certification program.

Of all the elements in the McKinsey report, this one seems the most challenging for Kentucky to consider.

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