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McGraw-Hill: U.S. needs to improve teachers' status

A new position paper from the McGraw-Hill Research Foundation, entitled "What the U.S. Can Learn from the World's Most Successful Education Reform Efforts" [PDF file], says the United States needs to work to improve teachers' status, following the model of countries, such as South Korea, Singapore and Finland.

The report draws on data from the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which tests 15-year-olds in over 50 countries in math, reading or science, according to The New York Times' Sam Dillon. "On the most recent PISA, the top-scoring countries were Finland and Singapore in science, Korea and Finland in reading and Singapore and Korea in math," Dillon writes. "On average, American teenagers came in 15th in reading and 19th in science. American students placed 27th in math. Only 2 percent of American students scored at the highest proficiency level, compared with 8 percent in Korea and 5 percent in Finland."

The paper's key recommendations are as follows:

  1. Raise the status of the teaching profession, with higher standards for teacher education, more practical classroom experience for those still in school and more professional development for those on the job
  2. Consistently implement common core standards
  3. Establish ongoing, summative assessment and intervention that adequately provides educators with real-time data to inform and tailor instruction
  4. Develop leaders at the local and school level
  5. Invest resources that allow school heads and school faculty to have greater local ownership of performance and practice new ideas and learn from their colleagues

"International comparisons show that in the countries with the highest performance, teachers are typically paid better relative to others, education credentials are valued more, and a higher share of educational spending is devoted to instructional services than is the case in the United States," write report authors Dr. Steven L. Paine and Andreas Schleicher.

Social status is also a relevant concern, writes The Sydney Morning Herald's John Watson. "Teaching is the most admired profession among Finnish students, more than law and medicine, and teachers enjoy a high degree of professional autonomy," he writes. "Teaching is left to the professionals. South Korean pay rates are the highest, but this is linked to cultural respect, reflected in the saying, 'Don't even step on the shadow of a teacher.' In these countries, teacher turnover rates are 1 to 3 percent."