This has been another week of long days and lots of work. But it’s also been a lot of fun. Most of the week we’ve been working with almost 500 brand new teachers hired by our school system as they start their careers this fall. Most are recent college graduates but a substantial minority are fresh out of some kind of alternate credentialing program after leaving some other profession. All of them were enthusiastic, anxious to get started, and a little scared. Thinking back to my first year of teaching (waaaaaaay back!), I can’t blame them for any of those emotions.
While watching these soon to be new teachers working with their coaches (experienced teachers who really did all the work!), I bounced around some thoughts of the school "reform" efforts currently being pushed by W and his friends in the federal government. I hate to be the one to break the news to you guys, but just requiring these people to have college degrees in their teaching fields and pass a standardized test is not going to create "highly qualified" teachers or lead to no child left behind. It’s going to take much more.
There is quite a bit of evidence showing that most teachers take at least five years to become competent. The same studies also say that beginning teachers don’t get better just by experience – they also need a good support system, including the assistance of a trained mentor. This is exactly what our system, and many others, are trying to do. I’m relatively new in the office that manages our new teacher induction program but I’m amazed at the quality of training and support we are able to give beginning teachers on the meager amount of money allocated to the program. I’ve done a little informal research and found that these programs are underfunded in most other school systems as well.
So, W, just ordering schools to hire better teachers ain’t gonna work. Teaching is more than just knowing the subject. Every new teacher, and some veterans, need a strong, well-funded induction program. Yes, George, it’s going to take some money to make it work. If you really want your No Child Left Behind legislative program to be more than a political slogan (and I hope you do), you need to require – and pay for – a support program for every beginning teacher. A true intern system, similar to the way that doctors are trained, would be even better.