Tuesday, May 19, 2009

fail: education of teachers

Imagine you're teaching a class, and you give them a basic test to check that they know the minimal information they need to understand the subject. And 75% of your class flunks this test.

That's bad.

And that's what recently happened to a group of teaching candidates given a basic math test to evaluate their qualifications to be licensed educators.

If this situation happened with a group of students, I would not blame the students. Once failure reaches a certain ubiquity, it's clear that the expectations of the test are no long aligned with the accessibility of the information. Something has gone wrong with the education itself, not the students.

And so, in a highly cyclic fashion, we have an education problem that re-invents itself as the product of the previous generation proves itself poorly prepared to take the reins of the next.

How can we break out of the cycle? I suggest we begin by universally recognizing the problem. Follow up by providing motivation for smart people to go into teaching - make teaching a more respectable, reasonable, and decently-paying career (I'm saddened to realize that I can add "safety" to the list of things many teachers currently lack in their jobs). It's not easy, and I'm resisting the temptation to pontificate further on the tip of this iceberg.

Here's the short article about the abysmal candidate performance:

http://www.thebostonchannel.com/asseenon5/19502822/detail.html

You might notice the sample math problem they show. Yes, it would probably be trick for many very young students, but frankly it's easy for anyone who knows a little math. If your job is not only to understand basic math, but to teach it, then questions like this are more than reasonable.