Teachers Aren’t Dumb: The importance of improved teacher development

October 23, 2015 at 7:01 am 6 comments

A highly recommended piece in the New York Times is linked below.  I learned a lot from it.  I didn’t know that college graduates who teach are comparable in SAT averages to other college graduates.  The information about teacher preparation programs and about how little new graduates know about teaching was surprising and fascinating.  We’re not yet at the point where we can decry CS teacher pre-service development yet (because for the most part, it exists in only a few places in the world, and almost none in the US), but these are important points to keep in mind when we do have it.

It’s true that the average SAT score of high school students who plan to become teachers is below the national average. But planning to teach doesn’t guarantee that you’ll succeed in college, pass the certification test and be hired. The median SAT score for those who actually do end up teaching is about the national mean for other college graduates. (There is some variation, depending on teaching specialty.) Teachers are smart enough, but you need more than smarts to teach well. You need to know your subject and you need to know how to help children learn it. That’s where research on American teachers raises concerns.

Source: Teachers Aren’t Dumb – The New York Times

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Requirements for a Computing-Literate Society: VL/HCC 2105 Keynote Jeff Atwood says “Learning to code is overrated” but means “We need good CS teachers”

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. alanone1  |  October 23, 2015 at 7:31 am

    Hi Mark

    The median SATs of teachers who graduate is comparable to the median of graduates in general? If so, I don’t share your optimism that this is somehow OK. (I’m not even sure what a measure in High School has to do with a level after 4 years of college.)

    We do have a strong sense — e.g. from the NAEP measures of reading ability in successful 4 year college graduates — that they don’t come out of college as fluent readers (as of 2003 only 31% were even deemed “proficient” and a glance at the definition will show that it is below what would be called “fluency”).

    I agree with the need for more “training”, but I don’t see how we can even get by in the 21st century without teachers also being “educated” (in the stronger sense of that term).

    As an example, they need to be much more than *better* in (say) math. I think they have to *understand math*, meaning they also have a perspective on math, can “do math” in different ways, can “see math” when a child does it, even if unorthodox, etc.

    Computing has similar problems, not just for its teachers, but for “computer people” themselves. Far far too many don’t actually *understand computing* in the sense of the above.

    It’s hard even for perennial optimists to be optimistic here ….

    • 2. Mark Guzdial  |  October 23, 2015 at 9:33 am

      When I was at UMich, students in the School of Education were in the bottom quintile of all accepted students, based on a weighted score of application information (including SAT scores for undergraduates). That’s depressing — how can we entrust something as important as teaching to our very worst students? I take the statistic about SATs from the linked article to indicate that the lowest of those applicants somewhere left (the program, the University), so those who became teachers are not our worst-prepared students.

      I agree — I want teachers to understand their subject, and I want computing practitioners to understand computing. What I take from this article is that there is room for improvement in making teacher preparation better, and that there are promising research results that point to ways to make it better. That gives me cause for optimism.

      • 3. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  October 23, 2015 at 3:14 pm

        I think that the cognitive dissonance here is coming from comparing different populations. You are used to selective universities (U Mich, Georgia Tech), where the education students are at the bottom of the range accepted. But selective institutions prepare relatively few of our teachers. Most go through less selective colleges where their SAT scores are more typical of the student body.

  • 4. mgozaydin  |  October 23, 2015 at 8:02 am

    Why education in Finland is good ?

    Teachers get General Managers salaries
    Teachers have MS MA degrees
    Therefore they have best teachers .

    In the USA very simply
    Teachers are not paid well, and they cannot be paid in the future
    They do not have MA degrees
    Therefore USA does not have enpough good teachers .

    Today a good teacher can reach to about at most 1.000 student per year .

    You can increase that number to 1 million and more if you use technology . ( Even if he/she can reach 100.000 students per year it is good . )
    That is today online, tomorrrow better Technologies .

    Let us forget to blaim technology but make better Technologies .

    Do not forget solution in every subject in the World is technology .

  • 5. gflint  |  October 24, 2015 at 6:23 pm

    What is there to attract high end students to education? Money? Not even. Good working environment? Many public schools are a pit to work in. Administration that is handcuffed as far as administering discipline, over crowded classrooms, funding based on local taxes so a local depression can kill a school, administrators that are hired because they promise school boards they can reduce costs not because they will improve education and the inability of schools to fire the incompetent for various reasons (tenure or ambivalence or shortage of qualified replacements). Any changes in the US education training system to attract those top students would require a major political shift in the education system itself that is just not going to happen. We still get great teachers but the numbers are just not what is needed.

    • 6. mgozaydin  |  October 25, 2015 at 1:40 am

      Yes. Right. Number s are low as it is today .


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