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Jay on the Web: Does Energy Outweigh Experience When It Comes to Teachers?

Jay has been generating some buzz on the web with his take last week on whether experience or energy matters most when it comes to improving education at schools in low income neighborhoods. It was a response to this Post story on inexperienced teachers in D.C. area schools. Here's the bottom line from Jay's commentary:

"Schools improve when their cultures change, not when their ratios of experienced and unexperienced teachers are recalculated. Schools in poor neighborhoods having the most success are those put in the hands of talented principals given the power to hire and fire their staffs to enhance achievement, and who use those powers to create a building-wide commitment to improving learning through teamwork."

Barnett Berry, president of the Center for Teacher Quality, begs to differ in a blog post:

Contrary to what is portrayed in the popular media, preparation for teaching actually does matter for teacher retention and student achievement. While current teacher education and licensing standards leave a lot to be desired (and need a good overhaul) teachers with preparation and who successfully complete an internship before they begin teaching are more effective and more likely to stay in teaching. In fact, researchers have found a strong relationship between preparation and teacher retention.

Join the debate by commenting below.

By Washington Post Editors  | May 6, 2009; 11:23 AM ET
Categories:  Jay on the Web  | Tags:  teacher experience  
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Sometimes enthusiasm is contagious and students do better. Sometimes it is irritating and distracting and student would prefer to do without it. Sometimes experience leads to wisdom and sometimes to boredom or even cynicism. I note that middle class parents active in the PTA often get to pick the teachers for their students (as do many parents will well-crafted if expensive 504 plans). Sometimes they pick mistakenly but more often information leads to better choices for their particular kids.

Students in college spend a great deal of effort picking their instructors for the best fit. Too bad only unusually active and persistent parents get the same opportunity in K-12.

Posted by: mct210 | May 8, 2009 7:32 AM | Report abuse

Apparently these researchers don't know that correlation does not equate causation.

It should occur to people that folks who become teachers the "traditional" way are completely unqualified to do anything outside of teaching and must therefore make the most of their situation. That their retention rate is higher should be a surprise to no one.

Alt-cert teachers, on the other hand, usually have a chance at returning to previous careers. That they leave teaching in greater numbers shouldn't surprise anyone either.

What is less surprising, but more disturbing, is the idea that people who've never functioned outside the education world are the "best" teachers. While these folks may relate to kids better, they often have little clue as to why their charges should be learning what they're learning. Lifelong teachers I've come across think that Powerpoint is the pinnacle of "technology" and that these students are being prepared for work at NASA. Likewise, I've seen such traditional teachers who think that kids need years of training so they can do google searches when they grow up. I've come across teachers who think that by having students practice recognizing patterns -- eg. distinguishiing between "black white red" and "green blue blue" -- these students are being well prepared to write pattern/recognition software.

Such people don't have the experience to make such connections and therefore cannot claim they are preparing students for anything. People who are qualified to make such connections -- example experienced software engineers, computer scientists, and mathematicians -- are declared to be unfit to teach.

Is it any wonder that colleges and college professor claim that our HS graduates are not qualified to start college?

Posted by: physicsteacher | May 8, 2009 7:46 AM | Report abuse

"Teachers with preparation and who successfully complete an internship before they begin teaching are more effective and more likely to stay in teaching."

How does that contradict Jay's premise? His point was that twenty years' experience counts, but is nowhere near sufficient. Should we give non-lifers a brief "internship"? Of course.

Posted by: icoleman | May 12, 2009 1:08 PM | Report abuse

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