That’s the question asked by an article at Education News.org. The piece is a summary of a new book by two researchers at the Hoover Institute which attempts to analyze why over the past 30 years the number of teachers with advanced degrees has increased while student achievement (as measured by standardized tests, of course) has declined. Well, I’m not an expert in teacher education, but I’m going to offer an opinion anyway.

In the article, the authors conclude with:

Teacher education, as we know it, is not the sole solution to an improved education system. Whereas teachers’ formal education levels have increased over the past 30 years, student achievement during that period has remained flat on a national level and has fallen in international comparisons. Placing a greater emphasis on having teachers obtain an academic degree rather than an education credential might be a good starting point for increasing student performance in the technical fields.

A "starting point" certainly but not nearly the whole solution. The answer to the question What Makes a Good Teacher? is not just knowledge of their subject area. We’ve all had teachers, especially in college, who were experts in their field but couldn’t teach to save their lives. They knew the subject but couldn’t communicate it to a class full of reasonably intellegent students. Understanding the subject matter is very important for any teacher but the ability to communicate that understanding to someone else – with enthusiasm, empathy and creativity – is what makes a good teacher.

How do you teach someone that ability to communicate? I don’t know the whole answer but I do know it largely doesn’t happen in college. Those skills are developed in the act of teaching itself and most good teachers will tell you they couldn’t have done it without having a superb mentor – formal or informal – to learn from. The authors call requiring an "academic degree" a starting point but I hope the people who will quote this study understand that it can only be a start. Good teaching is much more than knowledge of facts.