What the U.S. can learn about improving teacher effectiveness

The report outlines five lessons learned from these three jurisdictions’ systems:

  • It takes a system. Finland, Ontario, and Singapore differ in significant in terms of educator-development systems, “but what they have in common is that they are just that—systems for teacher and leader development. They include multiple components, not just a single policy, and these components are intended to be coherent and complementary, to support the overall goal of ensuring that each school in each jurisdiction is filled with highly effective teachers and is led by a highly effective principal.”
  • Get it right from the start. In each jurisdiction, entry into teacher education programs is extremely selective. Finland selects just one out of every 10 individuals who apply to become primary school teachers; Singapore traditionally selects those from the top third of high school classes (the nation is now moving rapidly toward graduate-level preparation); and in Ontario, where graduate-level preparation is the norm, the process is highly competitive, the report’s authors note.
  • Make teaching an attractive profession. While the top U.S. high school graduates often pursue careers in medicine, law, or business, teaching is a draw for academically talented youth in Finland, Ontario, and Singapore. Those educators stay in the profession instead of leaving for higher-paying jobs in other sectors. In Finland, for example, teaching was the top-rated job by college students surveyed in 2008.
  • Invest in continuous learning. “All three jurisdictions provide considerable time for teachers to work collaboratively and learn together during the regular school schedule—as much as five times what U.S. teachers receive,” according to the report.
  • Proactively recruit and develop high-quality leadership. The authors note that “in all three jurisdictions, school leaders are expected to be instructional leaders. They are expected to know curriculum and teaching intimately and be able to provide guidance and support to teachers. While management and budgeting are important aspects of leaders’ jobs, their instructional leadership role is paramount.”

“Teacher effectiveness is one of the most important factors in student learning, and we want to be sure we have the best people in classrooms, prepare them well, and keep them there,” said Bob Wise, AEE president and former governor of West Virginia. “These systems have a lot to teach us about how to do those things, and they get results.”

The policies of these nations are not expected to be imported wholesale into the United States, the report notes. Rather, these policies can expand U.S. policy makers’ views of what is possible as they seek to give students the all-important global education. The examples also show how these policies can be implemented in different contexts.

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