Recent results from the Phi Delta Kappa/Gallup poll show that the public holds this nugget of conventional wisdom in high regard: it's the quality of teaching that matters, not the quantity of teachers employed. Three out of four respondents reported that more effective teachers with larger classes would have a greater impact on student learning than less effective peers with smaller classes. But wait, isn't class size usually a sacred cow among parents and teachers?! What gives? Seems like here it's an issue of wording. If only the tradeoff of small class size were presented like this more often, then its status as a sacred cow might not hold up much longer.
The poll also posed the question of what makes a quality teacher. More than two-thirds of respondents believe that a teacher's ability to teach is more the result of natural talent than college training. Before starting a doomsday scenario where teacher training becomes a moot point, here's the good news: there are certain qualities that we can reliably select for in teacher candidates and even selection models to follow. Programs like Teach For America have become leaders in creating a process that reliably selects for these qualities. Imagine the potential impact, at scale, if traditional teacher preparation programs paired high selectivity with rigorous training. Now that would be quality!