The Gray Lady takes up teacher prep

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Once could be a fluke, twice may be a coincidence, but three times makes a trend. With yesterday's incisive op-ed by Bill Keller, teacher prep has clearly grabbed the imagination of the NY Times' opinion pages. And judging from the response Keller's piece is receiving -- it was the Times' most e-mailed article yesterday -- it seems to be grabbing the imagination of the wider public as well.

The publication of the Teacher Prep Review aside, it makes sense that the nation's paper of record would turn its attention to the issue of how to set new teachers up for success from day one. States and districts are beginning to put the systems in place to identify which of their teachers are effective; it's now well past time to increase their numbers. 

The only way to accomplish this at scale is to strengthen teacher preparation programs. That's the lesson that countries whose students outperform our own teach us. The Finnish and Korean educational "miracles," as Amanda Ripley has so effectively documented in her recent book, required an extensive revamping of how teachers are selected and trained. And with higher standards for what it takes to become a teacher, the public in those countries is willing to accord the profession the respect and pay that its members' hard work so richly deserves.

One of Keller's points bears special emphasis: "There are 3.3 million teachers in America, and they probably can't all be trained by start-ups." If new models of teacher training such as the one profiled in Keller's article fulfill their promise and produce effective new teachers, by all means let's grow them. But with college- and university-based schools of education minting over 190,000 graduates a year, it's hard to see a viable solution without their being a part of it.