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Treat Teachers Like Performers

It's little wonder that teachers in the U.S. can't produce results on a par with their colleagues in many other countries.  I'm referring now specifically to our persistent lackluster results in math on the Program for International Student Assessment ("Should all countries use the Shanghai maths method?" British Broadcasting Corporation, Jan. 20).

What stands out in my mind is that math teachers in Shanghai teach only two classes each day.  The rest of the time they work with students who need extra help and discuss techniques with other staff members.

In contrast, math teachers in the U.S. teach five classes a day.  If students need additional help, teachers meet them either before or after school or during their lunch break. The same teaching schedule applies to virtually all other subjects as well. 

Has it ever occurred to reformers that it is impossible to maintain this five-class-a-day schedule for years on end without running the risk of creating burnout?  Performers in the theater do only one show a day.  Only on Saturday do they do an afternoon matinee.  What would happen if teachers routinely followed Shanghai's teaching schedule?  I bet there would be an improvement in student outcomes.

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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