Shouldn't Trained Teachers Be Able to Improve Student Performance?

Posted by Nikhil Swaminathan

teacher-uYesterday, NPR profiled a rural school in Halifax County, North Carolina (thanks for the fact check, commenter Matt Liles), that according to its students' test scores shows evidence that it's falling behind. That's despite the fact that all of the teachers at Northwest Halifax High School are certified. A Superior Court judge that's in charge of keeping tabs on failing schools has a name for the dire situation there (where 70 percent of students are lagging in both reading and math, and the graduation is at 60 percent): "academic genocide."The situation raises a quandary in the education system: the fact that properly trained and certified teachers do not necessarily make for students who see improvement in their test scores. "Unfortunately, for us in the teaching profession, we don't know whether you're good at it until you actually get into it," Andre Stewart, a social studies teacher who appears in the piece. He is one of the few successful teachers at the school who have consistently raised test scores.The NPR story is asks some of the same questions as a commentary that appeared this weekend in The Chronicle of Higher Education, which discussed the formation of Teacher U at New York City's Hunter College. Conceived of by two owners of charter school networks and the recently elected education commissioner of New York State, the two-year masters program puts most of its focus on making sure that its graduates are ready to succeed in the classroom by focusing their training on that environment.The burgeoning educators spend five days a week in schools and receive instruction on Saturdays-mostly in the form of analysis of their classroom performance. And for a test score-driven education culture (whether or not that's the best model), these students cannot graduate until their show gains amongst the students they are teaching.I'll admit that training to teach in a charter school is probably not directly applicable to teaching at a school in rural North Carolina. But, if you're looking for teachers who can create real, data-driven results in the classroom, you may as well fold that into their own training--and eliminate as much of the risk as to how effective they'll be upfront.Photo via