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What Do We Mean by “Teacher Quality”?

teacher1“Teacher Quality” to some people means teacher qualifications like degrees, postgraduate study, and experience. Unfortunately, number of degrees, institutions from which they come, or years of experience do not predict which teachers will get good results for students. To others teacher quality means young people with passion, high degrees of literacy, and commitments to disadvantaged children. In other words, young, motivated Americans who are literate, like children, and want to make a difference. There is nothing wrong with getting motivated, literate, young people who like children interested in teaching, but that by itself isn’t enough to close the achievement gap and lift results for disadvantaged students. 

What we do need are more teachers with a high level of teaching expertise, a level of expertise far beyond what our current teacher workforce has learned at proficiency or been held accountable for using. This is what Teacher Quality should mean. This is not a blame statement for our current teacher workforce; it is an indictment of an ineffective and disconnected human resource pipeline that places underprepared teachers and administrators into working conditions without the required professional supports. If we are really serious about “quality teaching” then this is what needs fixing. Only an overhaul of the system that prepares and develops teachers can generate high expertise teaching.  That expertise is the real meaning of  “Teacher Quality”.