International Comparisons Reveal Lack of Rigor in U.S. System

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The Educational Testing Service has released a must-read report that provides valuable (yet all-too-rare) international comparisons on teacher preparation and licensure, entitled Preparing Teachers Around the World. The authors compare practices in seven industrialized countries, Australia, England, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, and Singapore, with those in the United States. These countries were chosen because they have students who do as well or better than American students do in math and science.

Some of the more interesting findings:

  • All of the countries employ some system of teacher licensure; only the U.S. and England permit alternative routes.
  • It is a lot easier to get admitted into a teacher education program in the U.S. than elsewhere. Other countries place much more weight on applicants' high school grades and scores on the rigorous high school exit examinations. In the United States, the high school record is "typically irrelevant to entry into teacher education programs."
  • Graduate-level teacher education is also less stringent than counterparts elsewhere, with fewer requirements for content mastery.
  • Other countries have better systems in place to force out weak teaching candidates and practicing teachers.
  • Strangely, American teachers expressed the most confidence in their ability to teach mathematics and science--even though the study found that they had the fewest formal credentials to do so and U.S. students' scores on the Third International Mathematics and Science Study were lackluster.