Pushing our Bottoms into Teaching Positions

Falling and Failing by pushing our bottom third into teaching.

According to McKinsey and Co., Finland, Singapore and South Korea have 100% of their incoming teachers coming from the top 1/3 of their college classes. The US . . . has a dismal 23%. Over 47% of our teachers graduate in the bottom third of their class. Of science and math teachers, few US public school teachers have a degree in the area they teach.

What’s the difference between our international counterparts and the US? Pay, yes, but actual dollar to dollar comparison and standard of living adjustments reveal that the gap isn’t really that big.

The difference may be in the professional perception. Turns out those who graduate in the top third would like to work in professional environments where they can be rewarded for their efforts, primarily professionally. The gold star effect. You earn a gold star, others around you are also striving to earn gold stars and viola, bright, capable people flock to other bright, capable people.

If you work in a public school system in the US you have additional degrees required by the local and national unions to satisfy pay grade levels. That sounds admirable until you see the quality of degrees that qualify as “enough” to reach the next pay grade. You have seniority based on time, not results, you have contrast in the level of those who would teach and those who do teach.

Imagine running a business this way. Would you hire consultants for your business who on average graduate in the bottom quarter of their applicable college classes?

As tax payers, we are shareholders in our school systems. Many of us will “invest” more in our local schools this year (through taxes, gift wrap, and bake sales) than in our 401k. Yet which investment will garner more of our attention?

The potential for excellent public education still exists and there are many fantastic teachers in the system. Unfortunately, while the US education system presents a much bigger challenge than a failing General Motors, the consequences are less immediate, and most of us will just hope it gets better. If you could buy out the amalgamated American school system, what would you do to turn it around?

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