Raising the Bar for Teachers


The short version: New York state schools (the SUNY system) are requiring potential teachers to have a 3.0 GPA before applying to their teacher training programs.

I was initially against this. I thought, “We need more teachers! If someone wants to teach, let them at least try!” But taking a longer-term view, I think this is the right choice.

Teaching is a low-prestige job in the USA. The pay varies, but is often low. The hours are long, and most teachers work over the summer. Everyone respects someone who became a doctor or an engineer; not so much for someone who became a teacher. Everyone thinks it’s hard, but few people think they couldn’t do it themselves. “Those who can’t, teach.”

It’s easy to forget that here in the northeastern USA. Most of my friends have a healthy respect for teaching, and the pay for teachers (especially if you live in New York or Pennsylvania) is generally better than elsewhere in the country. Across most of the USA, however, teachers are respected individually rather than as a group.

If there’s one thing that unites the best school systems in the world, it’s that teachers and education are respected in that country. China, Korea, Finland, all of them have cultures where education is held in high esteem. Finland in particular has very high standards for its teachers, and actually turns away the majority of people who want to teach. If we want the US education system to get better, we need to work towards that sort of esteem. It’s a cultural matter as much as anything else, and this is a step toward that.

I’m interested to see what the short-term impact will be as well. I’m more than a little nervous about that. If there’s a big drop in applications, this initiative might fail. My guess is that someone has already run the numbers on it and, I’m just speculating, maybe only 25% of the applicants would fall under the 3.0 GPA minimum. In the long term, though, having people know that teachers need high scores to get in helps to raise their esteem of the program, and of the people who get through it.


About Colin Fredericks

By day I help to create online courses at HarvardX. By night I write roleplaying games.

Posted on September 30, 2013, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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