Thursday, March 17, 2011

Teaching seen as crucial in topping ed rankings

The meeting comes after the recently released results of the Programme for International Student Assessment exam of 15-year-olds alarmed U.S. educators. Out of 34 countries, it ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math.

Schleicher co-authored a report released Wednesday in conjunction with the conference which concluded that for the U.S. to remain competitive, it must raise the status of the teaching profession. An additional report released by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, as well as the PISA exam, identified several effective practices observed in the top performing regions and countries:

- They draw teachers from the same pool of applicants as those from other selective professional careers.

Aspiring teachers in Singapore, for example, are selected from the top one-third of secondary school graduating classes. They are given a monthly stipend while in schools and starting salaries are competitive with other professional jobs.

In Finland, there were 6,600 applicants for 660 openings in primary school preparation programs in 2010.

- Higher teacher salaries - rather than smaller class sizes - were a better indicator of student performance.

At the same time, it wasn't an exclusive means of attracting the best into the profession and must be accompanied by support from school leaders and a work environment that values professional judgment rather than formulas.

"They want to do knowledge work, not work in a prescriptive environment," Schleicher said.

- Teachers are continually being trained and developing their skills as instructors.

In Shanghai, teachers are expected to participate in 240 hours of professional development within five years. Singapore teachers are entitled to 100 hours of training per year "to keep up with the rapid changes in the world."

- Instructors are held accountable for student performance, but test results would be just one of a number of measures to determine student outcomes. Teachers welcome effective appraisal systems.

- In many cases, countries with the highest student performance also had strong teacher unions. The unions also developed their research capacities, with international links and connections to ministries and universities.

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