Thursday, September 30, 2010

Reading McKinsey

Michael Martin:

The McKinsey & Company report ”Closing the talent gap: Attracting and retaining top-third graduates to careers in teaching” claims that the three top countries in international testing - Singapore, Finland and South Korea - “recruit, develop and retain” all of their teachers from the top third of college graduates, compared to the U.S. where “23 percent of new teachers come from the top third, and just 14 percent in high poverty schools.” Despite contrary evidence in their report, they claim this accounts for their top performing status.

Indeed, in the next paragraph the report notes “Paradoxically, U.S. research on whether teachers’ academic backgrounds significantly predict classroom effectiveness is very mixed, and it suggests that merely sprinkling teachers with top-third academic credentials into our existing system will not by itself produce dramatic gains in student achievement.” Plus they note that “our market research suggests that raising the share of top-third+ new hires in high-needs schools from 14 percent to 68 percent would mean paying new teachers around $65,000 with a maximum career compensation of $150,000 per year.” In other words, to achieve the 100 percent teacher recruitment from top third college graduates in the U.S. would be prohibitively expensive and might not accomplish much anyway.

The McKinsey report conceded that the success of Singapore, Finland, and South Korea was not strictly from hiring top-third college graduates. The report stated “These countries recognize that coming from the top third of graduates does not automatically translate into classroom effectiveness, and they invest systematically in developing the skills of those they select to teach.” But the report seems oblivious to this and does not focus on what that “systematically” process entails, although in describing Singapore the report did note:

“Singapore also provides teachers with time for collaboration and professional development. A few senior and master teachers in each school observe and coach other teachers, prepare model lessons and materials, advise on teaching methods and best practices, organize training, and support newly qualified teachers and trainees, in addition to their regular course-load. All teachers have time each week for professional collaboration and receive 100 hours of paid professional development each year.”

In describing Finland they note: “Teachers have wide decision-making authority in school policy and management, textbooks, course content, student assessment policies,course offerings, and budget allocations within the school.” They note that teacher pay is “modest, starting at around 81 percent of GDP per capita, slightly above the US at 79 percent.” However they fail to translate that into actual dollars. The UNdata website shows that in 2008 dollars this corresponds to $41,641 in Finland versus $35,732 in the United States, but with national healthcare provided in Finland this difference is substantially larger in disposable income.

When describing South Korea the report notes “South Korea places great emphasis on selectivity in entering the profession for elementary” teachers and “providing the highest teacher salaries in the world” which the report states for beginning teachers is about $55,000 with maximum salaries for teachers at about $155,000 in U.S. equivalent salaries. The report also notes that South Korea’s teachers “are guaranteed a teaching position for life.” The report suggests that “the country is piloting a program for advancement to ‘master teacher’ designation, and it has introduced new annual teacher evaluations aimed at promoting professional growth after five years of piloting. Teachers will be evaluated by peer teachers, administrators, students and parents at least once a year, and will participate in professional in-service education based on the feedback.” Thus their teacher evaluations are supportive rather than punitive.

1 comment:

abellia said...

The McKinsey report was interesting (at least a couple of years old by now, I think).

It's not just about money. It's about teaching being perceived as a crappy job in this country. The independence and respect issues are discussed in the McKinsey report as well.

There are lots of good people who get into teaching who leave because the environment is lousy.

Still, many don't consider teaching for lots of reasons. I'm not teaching today because there is only a single time in the year that teachers are hired. Why do we have teaching contracts? Why do we assume that teachers can't come and go as people do in other professions? Why do we have silly certification requirements that haven't shown to be beneficial?

Most "education reformers" want to create some system that just works. This is very top down and is destined to create a bureaucratic mess even worse than the one we have now. We need to empower people, assist them, and support them in constructive ways. We have a long way to go.

If parents really get fired up, things will change.