Over the weekend, The New York Times’ Motoko Rich wrote about the dilemma of how to get more men into the teaching profession. As one would imagine, the news analysis discussed the need to raise salaries, increase respect for the profession as a whole, and other such ideas.
While those are important, the education community also needs to drill down a little further. If we are serious about getting excellent teachers, be they men or women, into high-need schools, we need to dramatically improve our teacher education programs. If we want higher outcomes, we need improved inputs. It is that simple.
In response to Rich’s call to action asking why more men don’t teach, the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation reflected on what it has learned constructing rigorous STEM teacher prep programs in states like Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, New Jersey, and Ohio. From the Foundation:
Motoko Rich is absolutely right. We need the best candidates to go into the teaching profession. Collectively, we need to do everything we can to ensure our schools, particularly those that are high need, have excellent teachers leading all classrooms.
To achieve this, we must recognize the importance of high-quality teacher preparation programs that ensure teachers to be have the pedagogy, clinical experiences, and mentoring and support necessary to achieve. We must redesign our approach to teacher education, requiring greater rigor and stronger relevance to where instruction is headed, both in the near and long term.
An example of this new path is the Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellows program. Our innovative program is helping develop the next generation of STEM teachers in states like Georgia, Indiana, and New Jersey. We are partnering with 28 universities in five states to improve teacher education and, in the process, prepare excellent teachers for the 21st century classroom.
This focus on rigor and impact directly addresses the concerns Rich and others raise. This year, 45 percent of our Teaching Fellows in Indiana are male. In Ohio, 49 percent are men. And in New Jersey, the majority of our Teaching Fellows, 52 percent, are male.
What does this tell us? A high-quality, rigorous teacher education program attracts our best future educators, both male and female.
This should not be an issue of men versus women. Instead, we should be focusing on how to improve our teacher education programs in general. The Woodrow Wilson Teaching Fellowship offers a proven solution, and the results speak for themselves. We know what a difference well-prepared teachers, male or female, make when it comes to both student learning and achievement outcomes. And we are working to get more of those teachers in our high-need schools.
An interesting observation. And an incredibly important point. First and foremost, we must be focused on excellent teachers. Doesn’t matter gender or race or socioeconomic background. We need to do a better job of getting great teachers in the classroom. And that starts with offering great teacher education.
(Disclosure: Eduflack calls the Woodrow Wilson Foundation home.)