Joel Klein is the former chancellor of New York City schools. So he has a unique vantage point from which to assess the state of K-12 education in America. Today he has an article in the WSJ about raising the quality of teachers. Looking at Finland, which 40 years ago ranked near the bottom in Europe but today boasts a high school graduation rate of 93 percent, Klein writes:
The Finnish model suggests that, if we are serious about improving the quality of the people who go into teaching, we must begin by asking more of the education schools that train our teachers. Far too many of these schools function as indiscriminate revenue sources for universities and colleges, accepting underqualified students and their tuition dollars for programs that are academically weak.
To solve this problem, states could institute rigorous exams—similar to the bar exams for lawyers or licensing tests for doctors—that graduates would have to pass to be cleared for the classroom. In addition to testing pedagogy, these exams would require prospective teachers to demonstrate real subject-matter knowledge, something that is largely ignored today.
Unlike in America, Finnish teachers are drawn from the top 10% of their college classes. Read the whole article for more of Klein’s thinking. His article left me wondering, won’t this cost more? How should we pay for it? Hopefully these matters are addressed in Klein’s new book (releases on Tuesday).