Supply and Demand
Raising the status of teachers in America requires not only improvements on the teacher supply side, but also recognition of the parents’ preferences on the demand side.
High quality usually equates to high status, so its unsurprising that a recent report on international education reforms cites Finland, Singapore and Japan, countries with high student achievement, as also having high status for their teachers. That U.S. teachers have a status problem when two out of three eighth graders fail to achieve proficiency on national math and reading tests should also come as no surprise. This status issue should be addressed with a two-pronged strategy.
First, boost teacher quality to increase student performance. After the National Council of Teacher Quality gave D grades to New York in 2009 for its teacher preparation and evaluation policies, the state made some improvements, including adding student achievement measures to the teacher evaluation process and approving policies to raise the content knowledge of teachers in high-need subjects. However, other low-scoring states, like California, have done very little to raise their grades and improve the quality of teachers.
The National Council of Teacher Quality advises states to base teacher evaluations on objective indicators of student learning and to require stronger accountability for teacher preparation programs. Also, the organization recommends that the rigor of teacher certification exams be upgraded, especially given that almost all states set a low bar for passage. These sensible supply-side proposals, though, should be accompanied by demand-side reforms.
Parents and their children are the consumers of teaching services, and federal survey data shows that significantly lower percentages of parents of children with assigned public-school teachers are very satisfied with those teachers versus parents who can choose their public-school teachers or who decide to choose private school teachers. Choice improves satisfaction because if parents are dissatisfied with particular teachers they can choose better teachers at other schools.
Giving parents more school-choice tools would spur competition that would force states and school districts to change ineffective teacher policies, produce better teachers, raise student achievement, increase parental satisfaction, and lead to higher status for teachers.