Does anyone else do it better?

See all posts

Education Week's Lynn Olson recently penned a nifty white paper on lessons we can learn about the teaching profession from other countries. The takeaways:

  • Several countries are further along than the U.S. in providing teachers with differentiated career paths. The tiny powerhouse nation of Singapore, for example, has senior teachers who serve as role models and mentors--and at an even higher level, master teachers who are appointed for three years to help introduce new curricula and teaching methods at entire groups of schools.
  • Other countries have made considerable advancements in compensation reform. In Sweden, for example, teachers are guaranteed a base salary, but above that they directly negotiate their salaries with the principals that hire them. Sensibly, less well-off districts get extra funding for salaries from the central government. That approach could obviously hold a lot of promise for holding principals more accountable.
  • Several countries, including Switzerland and Japan, offer more effective induction programs, giving both new teachers and mentors a lighter teaching load. This reduced teaching load strategy, while expensive, is the only induction strategy that can work nearly as well in a dysfunctional school (those schools most in need of a more stable teaching force) as a school that functions reasonably well. Too many of the popular induction strategies in the U.S. only end up working if the school is reasonably well-run and headed by an effective leader--in which case the need for some expensive induction model is not so pressing. It's the Catch-22 of teacher retention--see the dismal results from Chicago also talked about in this issue. Under this model, even if the mentor turns out to be a dud (as they so often do), the stress level of the new teacher can still be reduced.