David Levin, a former teacher who co-founded, with Mike Feinberg, KIPP, the Knowledge is Power Program.rom at Freakonomics “Is America’s Education Problem Really Just a Teacher Problem?“:
The way we train teachers is fundamentally broken in this country. And I think that’s true on three levels.
So one, it’s disproportionately theory-based. And so you’ll learn about theories of child development, you’ll learn about theories of math instruction, or theories of reading instruction. And all of that is actually important. It’s just I’m not sure of like what good the theory of math instruction is if you don’t actually know how to deliver a lesson on math as well.
Number two, we have two problems with the way we approach content in this country. There is no doubt that content is queen and king. So the importance of content mastery in the classroom is absolutely essential. Having said that, sometimes the best math teachers weren’t necessarily the best math students, because you know you often teach better what you weren’t so good at, because you actually had to work to learn it. And yet, very often you have to have a certain number of college credits in math in order to be a math teacher. There is truth to that for sure when you get to the more complicated and higher levels. At K-8 level, however, you need to be able to deliver the content. You need to have a mastery over that, and that isn’t necessarily meaning you had a math degree in order to be able to teach fractions. You just need to be able to actually understand the nuances behind fractions. And right now, we’re assuming that if you have a math degree you can teach math as opposed to you know being taught the content.
The third problem with the way teachers are trained is that we are not training teachers right now to meet the challenges of our kids today. Right? So to this extent we are sort of still training teachers for classrooms of the past. So we’re not teaching teachers well enough how to effectively differentiate for the vast range of skills the kids have. We’re not teaching teachers effectively enough how to use technology to further teaching, and we’re not teaching teachers how to make school relevant for what kids are really needing to succeed in the colleges they may go to or the careers they may pursue 20 years from now.