As if education reforms coming out of Washington didn't have public school teachers, administrators and parents riled enough, the Obama administration is hoping to muscle badly performing teacher-training programs out of business.
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced last week that the administration will distribute $100 million to programs that produce teachers who raise students' test scores. The use of financial incentives is reminiscent of 2009's Race to the Top, a multi-billion effort to encourage states to innovate, better track student growth, intervene in bad schools, and tie teacher evaluations to student performance.
In this latest upending of the education status quo, Duncan said the administration will reward teacher-training programs with excellent records of placing graduates in jobs and keeping them there -- almost half of teachers leave the field in the first five years. Good training programs presumably give would-be teachers a realistic view of what they'll be getting into in a classroom.
Duncan's latest initiative echoes the call of other reformers, notably that of New York State Education Commissioner David Steiner, who was on the job for just 18 months before John B. King Jr. took over in April 2011. Steiner, the former dean of Hunter College's School of Education, wanted teacher trainees to spend more time in front of a classroom before graduation, to weed out weak candidates.
Better teacher training was also a key recommendation of Amanda Ripley's book, "The Smartest Kids in the World: And How They Got That Way." Ripley showed that when countries like Finland raised admission standards for teacher-training programs, the next generation of students blossomed.