Making "just a teacher" obsolete

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Columbia University student Sharon Liao's great op-ed in last Saturday's WaPo offers an honest view of what the teaching profession looks like from an Ivy League perch. And she couldn't be more right.

Top students from the Ivies and other selective institutions graduate each year and while they may flock to a temporary stint with Teach For America, they generally turn up their noses at the idea of becoming a career teacher. 

Liao puts it in blunt terms: For students conditioned to be ambitious, a teaching career simply isn't.

This is a problem, given that the rest of us think the best and brightest should teach the next generation of students. At least 75 percent of Americans believe that entrance requirements into teacher preparation programs should be as rigorous as or more selective than engineering, business, pre-law and pre-medicine. And two-thirds believe increasing the rigor of college teacher preparation programs would produce more effective teachers.

While moving the needle is absolutely going to require revamping the pay structure for teachers, let's not overlook the supreme importance of ramping up the prestige and selectivity of the education major on a lot of college campuses.  Smart, ambitious college students are not going to gravitate toward a major that is known for admitting anyone or taking coursework that feels like it was designed more for a first grader than a first grade teacher.