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"All we need to do to acquire a very poor teaching force is nothing."

"All we need to do to acquire a very poor teaching force is nothing." So says Marc Tucker, President and CEO of the National Center on Education and the Economy, in this July 22 podcast (MP3) from Bloomberg EDU.

He explains:

We are now about to get the worst teachers we have ever had, for at least 100 years, if we do nothing. All we have to do is pursue our current policies, not change them, and we will have, over the next 5 or 10 years, a dramatic, dramatic dive in the quality of our teaching force.
The only way we are going to have a competitive education system is if we start recruiting most of our teachers from the people, both men and women, who could go into the leading professions. We aren't going to do that unless we can pay them competitive wages. And we have to provide them a competitive workplace.

Teaching is basically a blue-collar occupation, though we call it a profession. ... If we had a true teaching profession, and recruited our teachers from the ranks of people who could otherwise work at Google...they're not going to put up with working in the kind of environment that most teachers work in in schools, which is really very like the industrial environment in businesses in 1910 and 1920.

Tucker is the author of a report entitled Standing on the Shoulders of Giants: An American Agenda for Education Reform, which outlines a plan for revamping our education system and surpassing the world's top-performing nations.

Tucker argues that we've been on the wrong course since at least WWII, and that we will see teacher quality take a dive in the next few years unless we change our policies around local control and teacher compensation. Essentially, he's saying that teaching has been subsidized by the lack of other career opportunities for well-educated women, a phenomenon I explored in a recent post after Nick Kristof made the same point.

Now that these subsidies are starting to fade, and now that women outnumber men in law and medical schools, fewer and fewer of the "best and brightest" are choosing teaching as a career.

What would the teaching profession look like if it were restructured to attract people who are currently taking jobs at Google and Apple—not just in terms of salary, but working conditions and career advancement opportunities?

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